The Alberta government has announced that, effective August 5th, it is eliminating the discriminatory liquor markup policy that was introduced in the last provincial budget. As reported here earlier, Alberta had previously had a liquor markup policy that applied equally to products regardless of place of origin. The budget changed that by providing lower preferential markups to small breweries located in Alberta and provinces that had signed the New West Partnership. As a result, an Ontario brewery, Steam Whistle, sued the Alberta government and obtained an injunction to prevent the change on the basis of a preliminary argument that s.121 of the Constitution (the "free trade provision") might prevent provinces from charging markups or fees that did not apply equally to all Canadian products. The Alberta government has now announced that they are reversing course and going back to a system that is non-discriminatory: Government to Create Consistency for Alberta Beer Markups. This move should effectively end the Steam Whistle case - which will also end the potential for a court ruling on the effect of s.121. At the same time, the Alberta government announced it will later introduce a "grant program" to encourage the growth of Alberta based small brewers.

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