Breweries make case against Alberta beer tax

CALGARY — Lawyers for two breweries challenged the constitutionality of Alberta’s tax system on small breweries Thursday, arguing the system unfairly favours producers in the province.

Toronto-based Steam Whistle Brewing and Saskatoon-based Great Western Brewing Co. say the system, which charges all small breweries $1.25 per litre sold but returns much of that to Alberta producers in the form of a grant, effectively provides an unconstitutional trade barrier.

The system replaced an earlier tax regime, the New West Partnership Trade Agreement, that gave brewers in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan a more direct tax advantage over those in the rest of Canada. Steam Whistle secured an injunction against the old system in January last year.

Andrew Stead, lawyer for Steam Whistle, said the NWPTA imposed in October 2015 was an obvious barrier to interprovincial trade.

“Small brewers, outside of the New West Partnership, cannot bring their beer free into Alberta. The only reason why they can’t is because of their geographic location. That’s unconstitutional,” he said.

But the new system introduced in August 2016, Stead added, provides a rebate to the penny for what Alberta breweries pay in the current markup — making it no different than the old system, outside of making breweries in B.C. and Saskatchewan pay more.

“The August markup, aside from poking Saskatchewan and B.C. from the right side of the wall to the wrong side, is otherwise a clumsy attempt to distract and camouflage the fact that it’s the October markup wearing funny glasses and a fake nose,” he said.

Stead said there are ways the Alberta government could support its small breweries through grants on marketing or hiring or supporting training programs. But a grant to refund a direct charge on sales is an effective tariff, he said.

Great Western CEO Michael Micovcin said the changed tax system adds almost $7 per 24-case of beer that they have to pass on to consumers, since they don’t get the grant that Alberta producers do.

The defendants, which include the Alberta government and the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, are expected to present their case Friday.

The Alberta government did not respond to a request for comment.

Just Posted

Accused murderer takes stand

Jason Klaus said he had no idea his family would be killed by Joshua Frank

St. Patrick’s school modernization could include asbestos removal

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools have told staff, students and parents connected… Continue reading

Campaign renews push to make Bighorn Backcountry a wildland provincial park, ATV groups unhappy

A push to provide provincial protection for the Bighorn Backcountry area has… Continue reading

Providing more services while keeping taxes low is Blackfalds’ dilemma

Town has undergone years of above-average growth

Creationist will speak at home-schooling convention in Red Deer

Ken Ham has debated Bill Nye on the Earth’s origins

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer: Nov. 19

Watch news highlights from the week of Nov. 13

Creationist will speak at home-schooling convention in Red Deer

Ken Ham has debated Bill Nye on the Earth’s origins

Update: Innisfail girl found

A 15-year-old missing Innisfail girl has been located safe and sound. Police… Continue reading

Cost to fix Phoenix pay system to surpass $540 million, auditor general says

The federal government’s chronic salary struggles will take more time and more… Continue reading

Red Deer Christmas Bureau to help 1,300 children this year

Demand is high, but Red Deer always provides

CP Holiday train makes stops in Central Alberta

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Kittens rescued after allegedly being tossed from vehicle

Couple finds abandoned kittens new home through Facebook

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month