Ontario craft brewer wins injunction against Alberta fees
Steam Whistle brewing wants equal treatment from provincial government
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An Ontario craft brewer won’t pay the increased mark-ups to sell beer in Alberta that the NDP government brought in October after a judge ordered a temporary injunction against the fees.
Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewing received the injunction from an Alberta judge Monday, preventing the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) from charging higher mark-ups until the company’s case is heard.
Alberta’s NDP government changed AGLC’s mark-ups in their October budget, slapping higher fees on beer from large brewers like Molson and Labatt to help craft breweries. But the government also increased fees on beer from craft brewers outside the New West Partnership, which includes Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
That includes Steam Whistle’s beer.
The mark-up on craft beer from outside the province is now $1.25 per litre (it was formerly $0.20 per litre) and that adds about $2.00 to the price of a six-pack.
Steam Whistle co-founder Greg Taylor said Alberta shouldn’t treat Canadian craft brewers differently.
“That’s not right. That’s not Canadian. It shouldn’t be allowed,” he said.
Taylor said treating brewers differently based on their size make sense, but not based on where they’re located in Canada.
He said if the mark-up remains in place they may have to consider stop distributing beer in the province.
“It makes it extremely difficult for us to business here in Alberta,” he said.
AGLC President Bill Robinson said the judge’s decision applies only to Steam Whistle, but added they may extend it to other brewers.
“We have had people asking and we’re considering that right now,” he said.
Robinson said they respect Steam Whistle’s right to ask for the hearing and welcome the opportunity to have a judge clarify the law.
Finance minister Joe Ceci said he was disappointed in the court’s ruling, however.
“Our government directed the AGLC to implement the small brewer mark-up last fall to ensure Alberta craft brewers were able to succeed and flourish in our province. This is about supporting Alberta jobs and Alberta producers.”
He said the govenrment would look at other ways to support Alberta companies in the mean time.