A Saskatchewan brewery says Alberta’s beer tax policy is having unintended consequences – higher beer prices for everyone.
Great Western Brewing Company has won a temporary injunction against Alberta raising its markup, arguing that it goes against free-trade rules and hurts out-of-province breweries. In August, the province imposed a $1.25 per litre flat rate on beer, while also introducing rebates for small-scale Alberta brewers.
Great Western Brewing CEO Michael Micovcin says some big Alberta brands are now raising their prices, because they can.
“During a very difficult economy, unfortunately, beer consumers are now having to pay significantly more for those value-priced brands,” says Micovcin. “I think it’s just bad public policy.”
Micovsin says their Alberta sales were seeing double-digit gains every year, now they’re plummeting by the same amount. He says 60 per cent of Great Western’s business is done in Alberta, but he also argues the negative effects of this move go far beyond just his company.
“We’re talking about almost double-digit rates of decline for the entire industry, and of course the recession is a big part of that, but now you’re seeing higher beer prices as a result of the markup policy, and it’s just exacerbating the whole situation.”
Finance Minister Joe Ceci says Alberta has the most trade-compliant policy in Canada and the most open liquor market. The beer battle will be back in court next summer when the province and the brewery will make their full arguments. (bd)