April 7, 2017 2:08 pm
Updated: April 7, 2017 4:00 pm

People in Saskatchewan are paying the highest price for beer in Canada

Saskatchewan residents will be paying the most for certain sizes of beer across the country this year. This comes after the province raised the price of alcohol in their 2017-18 budget.

Lars Hagberg / The Canadian Press
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Saskatchewan residents will be paying the most for certain sizes of beer across the country this year. This comes after the province raised the price of alcohol in their 2017-18 budget.

When the province announced the budget in March, almost all beer products in Saskatchewan went up 6.8 per cent effective April 1 – making Saskatchewan one of the most expensive places to buy beer in the country.

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“These are decisions that aren’t taken lightly, but given the challenges we had facing the fiscal situation, I think people would of been surprised if we made the tax change we did and didn’t actually address markups on liquor and tobacco tax,” said SLGA Minister Jeremy Harrison.

“What I have been hearing from people was there was an expectation that this would probably be the case,” he added.

READ MORE: How PST and income tax changes will affect Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan if you want to buy 24 bottles (341 ml) of Molson Canadian, it now costs you $52.32. When you compare that to other provinces like Manitoba where 24 bottles will cost you $43.46 and in Ontario $38.95, there is quite a price difference.

The second highest priced province to buy beer is in Newfoundland, where 24 bottles of Canadian is $48.75. That’s $3.57 cheaper than here in Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan residents will be paying the most for certain sizes of beer across the country this year. This comes after the province raised the price of alcohol in their 2017-18 budget.

“The main reason for beer prices being so high in Saskatchewan is the mark-up, so it really is government policy choice. It serves two masters – the thinking is one that it will discourage alcohol abuse and the other is that it will raise revenue to pay for some of the harms caused by alcohol abuse,” said Jason Childs, a beer economics professor at the University of Regina.

In Question Period earlier this week, the opposition raised concerns over the high taxes on beer in Saskatchewan.

“In this budget, the Sask. Party made it so Saskatchewan people pay the most for beer anywhere else in the country,” Saskatchewan NDP MLA Nicole Sarauer told Global News.

According to Childs, some of those costs are unavoidable.

“A lot of it is policy – the other thing that happens is there is convenience and packaging fees applied to beers by SLGA. The other thing to remember is if you’re talking about refillable bottles, they are the cheapest system if you live in a high density environment like Toronto – it is cheap because the bottles will stay there and the breweries are there,” Childs added.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan brewer taking Alberta government to court over beer pricing policy

For the past few years the Saskatchewan government has slowly been allowing private liquor stores to open in the province. That does not necessarily mean the price of beer will drop.
“The experience of Alberta says no – Alberta has a fully private retail side and at times their prices have been higher than ours, so you are going to get that additional profit margin built in,” Childs said.

“I would say with regard to craft and regional we dropped the [tax] very recently and we also made adjustment to the craft and regional spirit and wine industry also. And I would never say never because there is policy reasons to make reductions, and we made reductions on both of those in the last eight months. As far as immediate plans to lower any of the markups – no there aren’t any, but we want to make sure our domestic breweries here in the province are competitive as can be,” Harrison said.

As for finding relief this summer Childs warns there is not much you can do.

“If it’s about the price of beer there is only two ways to avoid it – brew your own or drink less.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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