Jolene de Vries says people in Saskatchewan shouldn’t be deterred from doing something that improves their health, especially from the government.

The province announced in its last budget that it was expanding the provincial sales tax (PST) base to include gym memberships, golf and curling, and most arts, cultural and sporting events. This means that people will have to pay 6% more to join certain fitness clubs.

De Vries, who runs Anytime Fitness gyms in Esterhazy and Yorkton with her husband, joined other gym owners in Moose Jaw and Regina in the Legislature on Thursday to share their concerns with the province. They were invited by the opposition.

“As a fitness industry, right now the government is basically calling us entertainment. We’re not entertainment, we’re part of healthcare, and that needs to change,” de Vries told reporters after the period. questions.

“For every dollar spent on preventative fitness and nutrition in the province, it saves the healthcare industry $6. We therefore believe that this PST should not be an additional burden for our members or for the community.

Now is not the time to discourage people from doing something healthy, de Vries says, noting that gyms help people manage health issues including diabetes, high blood pressure and hypertension.

Plus, she says, gyms can help improve mental health, which many people have struggled with during the pandemic.

“We have letters and testimonials from our members that say we are the only thing keeping them from committing suicide,” she said.

“We don’t do a good enough job as an industry announcing how we help people save their lives and improve their quality of life, and that’s really what 97% of our business does.”

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer says the PST expansion will generate about $21 million annually and targets events and services already taxed under the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) .

“Always try to rebuild our businesses”

De Vries says the tax also comes at a time when gyms are still trying to recover from the losses they suffered during the pandemic.

“We are still trying to rebuild our businesses,” she said. “We have seen 40% of our industry shut down in the past three years across Canada and we continue to suffer.”

She says rising costs of basic items, including food and gas, are already causing fewer people to go to the gym, which an additional tax won’t help.

“We’re in a rural area so they have to drive farther to get to the gym, so we’re seeing reductions in our membership base just because people have to drive farther,” she said.

“We’ve seen governments keep people away from gyms lately, and we want to be part of the solution.”