by Morinville News Staff
President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance Joe Ceci says the government will appeal an Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) panel decision on the Alberta Small Brewers Development program.
In October of 2015, the Government of Alberta announced it would tax beer from small brewers outside the New West Partnership (British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan) at a higher rate than similar brewers located within those provinces.
In a dispute between Artisan Ales Consulting Inc. and Alberta regarding beer mark-ups, the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) panel found in the majority that “Artisan, as well as others importing beer into Alberta or brewing beer for import into Alberta, including Saskatchewan breweries, have suffered injury due to the Measures.”
The report goes on to indicate Alberta should “repeal or amend” the Measures to bring its beer-related mark-ups and related grant programs into compliance with the Agreement on Internal Trade as soon as possible, and in no case later than six (6) months after the issuance of this Panel’s decision.
While the UCP in their previous incarnations had been critical of the government’s move, the new caucus cheered the panel decision, hoping it would take effect.
Ceci said he is proud of the success of the Alberta Small Brewers Development (ASBD) program.
“Since the program started a year ago, 18 new breweries have opened their doors, created jobs and made great Alberta beer,” Ceci said. “In short, the program works and is doing what it intended.”
Ceci says the appeal is in response to an NDP promise that the government would have the back of small businesses.
“I have no intention of abandoning them now and that’s why we are appealing the decision by the AIT panel on the ASBD program,” he said. “I continue to believe that the ASBD program meets our commitments under AIT and other trade agreements.”
Ceci went on to say Alberta maintains the most open liquor market in the country with the widest selection of beer and other liquor products from across Canada and around the world. However, at the same time, he argues Alberta products are largely shut out of other provinces, including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.
United Conservative Party Finance Critic Ric McIver said he was “disappointed, but not surprised” to see Finance Minister Joe Ceci appealing the panel decision.
“By fighting the AIT panel’s decision, the NDP has sent a signal Alberta no longer respects agreements that were signed in good faith by our many trading partners,” McIver said. “This will ultimately hurt Alberta businesses across all industry sectors.”