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New Liquor Trade Challenge: Alberta vs Ontario

The Alberta Government has indicated that it is filing a trade challenge (presumably under the Agreement on Internal Trade) aimed at opening up the Ontario market for small liquor manufacturers from Alberta. The news release (Trade Challenge Launched to Support Small Brewers) indicates that only 20 Alberta products are currently sold in Ontario while 745 Ontario products are sold in Alberta. 

At the same time, Alberta has indicated that it is canceling its Small Brewer Development Program which provided grants to small local breweries. This program (and an earlier preferential markup system) were the subject of legal challenges, two of which found that the programs discriminated against out-of-province producers by providing financial incentives to small in-province manufacturers. In its place, Alberta will introduce a volume-based \”universal small producer\” markup such that small producers from anywhere can receive lower markup if they produce less than 50,000 hectoliters of annual worldwide production.

One of the earlier legal decisions was the Steam Whistle case which applied reasoning set out in the Supreme Court of Canada\’s Comeau decision (previously discussed on this blog). The Alberta government had previously indicated that they would appeal Steam Whistle. While there is no mention of the appeal in the news release, it appears from these developments that the Alberta government has determined that it cannot implement preferential markups and is now switching to a non-discriminatory markup system. 

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