A visit to a microbrewery on Thursday morning has the premier thinking a lot about what ails the liquor industry in Quebec.
Premier Philippe Couillard has been touring local businesses this week in an effort to find out what challenges they face. On Thursday, he toured La Souche, curious about this industry.
“This is a very specific type of business — microbrewery, and they’re doing very well in Quebec. You see them popping up in all regions at the moment,” Couillard said.
If you ask the three 30-something-year-old entrepreneurs, who are co-owners of La Souche, the microbrewery culture in Quebec is growing.
“People like beer more. They drink more beer and they drink better beer,” said co-owner Antoine Bernatchez.
As a result, Bernatchez and his partners have been able to open a second location just north of Quebec City.
Last week, the government announced it would soon update Quebec’s complicated liquor laws. Now, the premier is hearing that the changes don’t go far enough.
These brewers would like to start selling their beer in aluminum cans, but Quebec doesn’t allow liquor companies to sticker their cans.
“Because of the recycling process,” Bernatchez said. “But they can do it in Ontario and the U.S., but not us. Why?”
They have to order the cans from the U.S. with printed labels, but they’re forced to order $30,000 worth at a time.
“That’s a lot of capital and a lot of space. We cannot afford this,” Bernatchez said.
The premier said he is working with the industry to brew up solutions, one of which might be to start producing aluminum cans in Quebec.
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Couillard said he wants to make things easier for business. He says he knows his government has put pressures on small and medium-sized businesses by raising the minimum wage, improving the Quebec pension plan — and promising to give employees more vacation.
The premier also hinted at business tax cuts in the upcoming budget: “All these pressures add up so we must provide relief on the fiscal side and keep them competitive,” he said.