The Saskatchewan government is calling a recent ruling against an Alberta beer policy a big win for free trade within Canada.
In August 2016, the Alberta government moved place a $1.25 per litre markup on beer no matter the size, location or level of production of a company. The policy change also came with grants to small, Alberta-based producers.
In June of this year, Calgary-based beer importer Artisan Ales argued before a panel set up under the Agreement on Internal Trade.
The company stated that the rebate program “discriminated against the beer it brought in from other provinces and had a major negative impact on its business.”
The Saskatchewan government supported the company’s complaint. Saskatoon-based Great Western Brewing was also concerned about the policy change.
The panel ruled in July that the current program for small Alberta brewers, as well as a program it had in 2015, “discriminated against brewers from other provinces and was contrary to that province’s free trade obligations.”
Dustin Duncan, Saskatchewan’s acting minister responsible for trade, responded to the decision in a news release Wednesday.
“The panel decision supports a level playing field for beer, which is good for Alberta consumers and the Canadian craft beer industry generally,” Duncan said.
The panel said Alberta has six months to change its policy.
The Alberta government is appealing the decision and that process could take up to seven months.
“We are disappointed Alberta has decided to appeal the ruling. It needs to do the right thing and comply with the ruling,” Duncan said.