Par François-Xavier Robert
Ordre des agronomes du Québec
Dans la décision 1146491 Ontario Ltd. c. The Queen (C.C.I., no 2000-4853 (GST), 10 mai 2002, j. Miller), la Cour canadienne de l’impôt devait décider si les mélanges à salade commercialisés par la requérante devaient être considérés comme des salades ou des produits alimentaires de base au sens de la Loi sur la taxe d’accise, L.R.C. 1985, c. E-5. La question était importante puisque les produits alimentaires de base ne sont pas taxables, contrairement aux salades.
Les deux parties soulèvent que le sens ordinaire du mot « salade » doit guider le tribunal dans l’interprétation de la loi. Le juge leur répond, manifestement non sans sarcasme, que cette approche s’avère peu utile dans le présent cas :
«  There was agreement between counsel that the correct approach to this matter of interpretation can be found in the decision Shaklee Canada Inc. v. Canada, (1995) 191 N.R. 227 (F.C.C.A.), which suggests it is appropriate to look at the common understanding of a word. Having agreed on this, both counsel went on to provide a number of dictionary definitions of salad. Frankly these are of little or no assistance. To be told that a salad is "green vegetables (as lettuce, endive, or romaine) and often tomatoes, cucumbers or radishes served with dressing" has not considerably expanded my understanding of salad. Neither was I much further ahead to be advised that a salad is "a mixture of usually raw vegetables, eaten either as a separate dish or with other food". The Respondent's counsel produced a history of the American salad. While it was indeed fascinating reading, and acknowledged the emergence in 1990 of the convenience salad, it did not specifically address the matter of the salad kit. "Salad" has evidently not been judicially defined. I am certainly not going to do so. What I will do however is determine if the Market Fresh salad kits are basic groceries or are exceptions to basic groceries. »
La Cour canadienne de l’impôt préfère plutôt cerner les caractéristiques communes aux produits alimentaires considérés par la loi comme n’était pas des produits alimentaires de base :
«  […] In reviewing the list, two themes become evident as to what type of foods are not to be considered basic groceries: snacks or junk food, including anything that most people would find not particularly healthy; and foods intended to be eaten immediately after opening or removing the packaging. Salads would not fall in the former category in most people's view, so to be caught by the exception in keeping with this common characteristic, a salad should fall in the latter category. Specifically, looking at the foods contained in subsections 1(o.1), (o.2), (o.3), (o.4) and (o.5), the common thread can perhaps more aptly be described as a total convenience food. These are foods that require no preparation - it is all done for you. Respondent's counsel argued that the salad kit is just such a food. I disagree. The purchaser must take the salad kit home to assemble the salad. The salad may indeed be used two or three days running by being re-sealed, or it might well serve a family of four their salad for supper. It is certainly more convenient than a head of lettuce, but it is not the same level of convenience as the pre-made and assembled spinach salad proffered as an exhibit. The Respondent's counsel acknowledged the degrees of convenience, for the shopper went from a head of lettuce, to pre-cut, pre-washed bags of lettuce, to the salad kit, to the fully assembled salad. He maintained the line of convenience between the bag of cut and washed lettuce and the salad kit was the line over which the tax bite arose. Again, I disagree. The context of salad as one of an exception of foodstuffs with common characteristics suggest to me that a salad as an exception must be a fully assembled ready to eat salad, requiring no further effort to make it so. A salad is a salad - a salad kit is a salad kit. »
Faisant manifestement peu de cas dans les habiletés culinaires de la majorité de ses concitoyens et des juristes en particulier, la Cour ajoute :
«  In this fast-paced day and age, where retailers market convenience to households, in which spending more than one half hour on food preparation is a rare luxury, it is inappropriate to find a salad kit not to be part of basic groceries. Those steeped in culinary arts might pooh pooh the idea that assembling a Caesar salad from a salad kit constitutes food preparation or cooking. I have no doubt there are a far greater number, be they university students, law clerks, young urban professionals or retired couples who think the assembly of the salad from the kit is indeed cooking. As such, the kit itself cannot be considered the salad. »
Le texte intégral de la décision est disponible ici.