Saskatchewan brewer taking Alberta government to court over beer pricing policy


A Saskatchewan brewing company wants to take Alberta to court over its beer tax.

The Notley government raised mark-ups on breweries this past summer, but offset that with rebates for Alberta brewers. Now the Great Western Brewing Company is going to court to declare the increase unconstitutional.

READ MORE: Alberta government unveils grant program for province’s small breweries

“We are seeking an order declaring the mark-up and rebate policy unconstitutional,” said Great Western CEO Michael Micovcin in a statement. “At a time when Alberta’s economy is hurting, this policy not only hikes the price of beer, but it’s also a huge barrier to new investment and job creation.”

READ MORE: Great Western Brewing expects ‘substantial’ hit on sales after Alberta beer markup

It says Alberta is not allowed to bring in protectionist taxes, and that this will raise the price of beer by roughly three dollars a case and hurt job creation.

In July, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci spoke to reporters about how Alberta’s small beer brewers will get up to $20 million a year in grants to help offset the coming hike in the markup on all beer sold in the province.

He said the reason for the grants was to help grow Alberta’s industry and create jobs.

The markup on beer was raised to $1.25 a litre on Aug. 5 for all beer sold in Alberta, regardless of where it is made.

At the time, the Saskatchewan government argued the policy violates the spirit of the New West Partnership free trade deal.

Alberta has the most open beer market in Canada, with sellers simply having to fill out a form to sell. Access to shelves in other provinces is controlled by liquor boards.

-with files from Phil Heidenreich and The Canadian Press.