Canadian Manufacturing

Notley hits back at Wall over beer tax, calls criticism another ‘political drive-by’

Controversy surrounding interprovincial trade rears its head again in spat between pair of Canadian premiers


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EDMONTON—Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says her Saskatchewan counterpart Brad Wall should pick up the phone if he has a problem with her province’s new beer rules.

Notley says criticism of her policy is another “political drive-by” from Wall.

“My experience over the last 13 months is that when there’s a matter, pick up the phone and talk to your colleagues,” Notley said July 19 at the legislature. “I would suggest that if he (Wall) would actually like to see a solution, that’s a better approach.”

“The fact of the matter is we did pick up the phone,” Wall countered. “We did it last Friday. We waited until Monday to make any public comment … obviously it’s not a drive-by; it’s not even a walk-by.”

Wall said he asked his senior advisor Reg Downs last week to contact Notley’s chief of staff, saying they wanted to comment publicly on the matter but not without letting Alberta officials know.

“We have real concerns about this, about the impact on Saskatchewan jobs,” said Wall.

“Obviously Alberta consumers are going to be paying more for beer but that’s not our business. What is our business, though, is if something’s violating the spirit of the New West Partnership and if it’s going to potentially cost jobs in our province, then we have to look at all of our options.”

At issue is Alberta’s new pricing plan for beer.

As of Aug. 5, the markup on beer will be set at $1.25 a litre—regardless of where the beer is made—but there will be grants available for Alberta-based small brewers.

Notley says Alberta has been too passive when trade rules in other provinces have harmed local interests in its brewing industry.

“We’re going to reach out and help some of our small brewers on an economic development basis,” said Notley, who noted there are a number of other Alberta-made products that can’t be sold in other provinces.

“But in the meantime I will not be lectured about any efforts that our government might take in the future in order to support our small brewers, our economic diversification, our workers and our industries.”

Wall’s government says the price change will hurt Saskatchewan producers selling in Alberta and violates the spirit of interprovincial trade agreements.

Last fall, Wall’s government announced it was lowering the markup on beer from smaller breweries in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia as part of the New West Partnership trade agreement with the three provinces.

Don McMorris, minister for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, has said Alberta’s markup will hurt his province’s brewers, namely Saskatoon-based Great Western Brewing.

Wall is expected to raise the issue with Notley at the premiers meeting later this week in Whitehorse.

with files from CKRM


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