Vancouver fitness pioneer Ron Zalko considers provincial politics
The founder of one of Vancouver's most successful gyms says he's ready to run for the legislature if his party promises to eliminate provincial sales taxes on fitness providers.
In October, Ron Zalko joined the board of B.C. First. It's a new provincial party created by some of the same people who worked on Bill Vander Zalm's campaign to scrap the harmonized sales tax.
In a year-end phone interview with the Straight, Zalko said that he's willing to be a candidate if B.C. First removes the provincial portion of the HST from not only gyms and fitness clubs, but also in other areas that enhance people's health, such as triathlon entry fees and bicycles.
"A healthy society is a very productive society, and we should encourage people to exercise, motivate them to exercise, and do activity outdoors or indoors—hiking or going to the gym or doing yoga," Zalko declared. "Don't tax them and punish them for getting healthy."
He emphasized that promoting health will reduce costs to the health-care system. "I want to see every fitness provider get relief from taxes and motivate people to be healthy."
The founder of Ron Zalko Total Body Fitness and Yoga said that about 3,000 members belong to his Kitsilano facility. During the anti-HST initiative, he placed petitions inside the gym for people to sign.
When asked for alternatives to fitness taxes, Zalko replied with a laugh: "Tax them when they buy a Ferrari, and tax them good!"
He also said that the B.C. government should try harder to combat childhood obesity. He noted that this is especially important in this era when kids are spending so much time in front of the computer or texting their friends.
"They have no knowledge about how to eat right or exercise right," Zalko commented. "I would like to encourage more physical awareness in schools—in high school, elementary school, and kindergarten."
He recalled that he used to be "fat", weighing 225 pounds at one point, before deciding to change his lifestyle. He was the first Canadian to complete the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, in which he wore a T-shirt saying "From fat man to Ironman".
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