Panel rules Alberta’s craft beer subsidy violates trade rules

An Alberta government plan to boost craft brewers in the province has been dealt another blow with a ruling by a trade panel.

The appeal decision upheld an earlier decision that provincial subsidies to help Alberta craft brewers are unfair and violate inter-provincial free trade rules.

The program in question was launched by Finance Minister Joe Ceci three years ago.

All Alberta brewers pay the same $1.25 tax per litre on beer, but the province brought in grants in 2016 to help producers grow.

Artisan Ales in Calgary filed a complaint with the panel, saying the grants were unfair to those who brought in beer products from outside Alberta.

Province reviewing decision

The same day the decision was released; Ceci toured an Edmonton microbrewery, and spoke to reporters about it.

“We are reviewing the AIT decision of course,” Ceci said. “We’re going to take the time…necessary to look at what the decision means for us and the small brewers in this province.”

“We want to continue to have a craft brewing industry in this province, and I can tell you in no small measure the Small Brewers Development Program has had a great assist in that regard.”

Ceci said 46 breweries had opened since June, 2016 as a result of the program.

The finance minister said other programs “run interference against Alberta beer.” He said Ontario, B.C., Saskatchewan have programs that prevent Alberta beer from being imported into those provinces.

“We’ll continue to be the most open liquor market in the country.”

With files from The Canadian Press