Change in Alberta beer markup ‘bad news’ for Saskatchewan brewers

The Saskatchewan government is criticizing a decision by Rachel Notley's government to change Alberta's beer tax system.
The Saskatchewan government is criticizing a decision by Rachel Notley's government to change Alberta's beer tax system. The Associated Press

As the government of Alberta moves toward changing its beer tax system, the Saskatchewan government is voicing its concern.

On July 12, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said he has directed the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to set the beer markup at $1.25 per litre on Aug. 5.

The announcement is a move away from the graduated mark-up rate for small craft brewers in B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Beer markup as of October 28, 2015. Credit, AGLC

Under the new policy, a fee of $1.25 per litre will be charged for all beer, regardless of where it’s made.

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Alberta brewers will also have access to provincial grants. The minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, Don McMorris, says the policy change is “bad news.”

READ MORE: Alberta backtracks on graduated beer tax for craft brewers

“Alberta’s new beer pricing and grant policy are a trade issue that could hurt producers and consumers in both provinces,” McMorris said in a statement on Monday.

McMorris said the change will significantly increase the markup rate applied in Alberta to Great Western Brewing and other small Saskatchewan producers.

“This would mean higher prices and less selection for Alberta consumers, as out-of-province breweries will be forced to reconsider that market after having been placed at a significant economic disadvantage to their Alberta counterparts,” McMorris said.

McMorris added that Alberta should not be raising trade barriers for beer entering the Alberta market and the Saskatchewan government will be watching to see if the grant program if it complies with the Agreement on Internal Trade and the New West Partnership Trade Agreement.

“If they proceed with this measure, we will have to explore all our options including potentially re-examining the markups on Alberta beer and other liquor products sold in Saskatchewan,” McMorris said.

“We should all be looking at ways to reduce interprovincial trade barriers, not raising them, so we hope the Alberta government will reconsider this ill-conceived policy.”

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McMorris said Premier Brad Wall will discuss the markup with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley at the premiers’ meeting in Whitehorse.

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