Government launching trade challenge to support Alberta brewers

Above: Minister Joe Ceci and Minister Deron Bilous are joined by Alberta brewers Neil Herbst and Greg Zeschuk to announce support for Alberta’s small brewers.

by Morinville News Staff

The Government of Alberta is taking the Ontario government to task under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement over what it says are unfair liquor policies that prevent Alberta manufacturers from accessing the Ontario market.

Currently, there are 754 Ontario products among the 3700 alcohol products imported from other parts of Canada; however, Ontario, with three times the market, only imports 20 products from Alberta. By contrast, Alberta products are readily available in Japan, the United States and across the European Union.

“It doesn’t make any sense that it’s easier to sell Alberta beer in Tokyo than it is in Toronto,” said Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development & Trade, in a release Monday. “It’s unacceptable. We’re fighting for the Alberta craft liquor manufacturers who create good jobs here in our province. They deserve a level playing field to sell their products across the country, without unfair trade barriers. We need more trade, not less.”

In a rare moment of praise, UCP LEader Jason Kenney applauded the move in a tweet.

“I commend the NDP government for pursuing this challenge of unfair non tariff barriers imposed by the LCBO,” Kenney wrote. “Alberta should be a champion of free trade within Canada, instead of punishing consumers with higher beer taxes.”

But launching a trade challenge is not the only way the province says it is supporting Alberta’s small brewers.

The government is introducing a universal small brewer markup. Brewers producing less than 50,000 hectolitres in Annual Worldwide Production (AWP) will pay markups between 10 cents and 60 cents per litre instead of the standard $1.25 per litre markup. The government says the lower markup will allow small brewers to reinvest in their business and continue to grow.

The government says the new markup rates will come into effect following the cancellation of the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program on Dec. 15.

Alberta now has 137 liquor manufacturers, including 99 brewers.

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