Ontario’s new PC government has long-promised the return of buck-a-beer across the province, but the campaign promise isn’t coming without its caveats.
Once put into place, the buck-a-beer plan will bring down the lowest price that beer can be legally sold in Ontario from $1.25 to $1 on August 27. Brewers who opt to take part in the program could be allowed prime advertising spots in the LCBO, and non-financial advertising incentives.
The Ontario PC Party has also previously announced that they will expand the sale of beer and wine into more grocery stores, convenience stores and big box stores.
“Our plan puts people first,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
“For too long beer consumers have been forced to pay inflated prices for beer in order to increase the profits of big corporations. We’re going to allow price competition for beer and this will save consumers money.”
In 2008 the Liberal government increased the minimum price floor for beer, which the PC’s say discouraged competition and gouged consumers who previously benefited from buying beer in a competitive marketplace.
The buck-a-beer program has led some residents to believe that all beer will be available for purchase for only $1, but craft brewers across the province have echoed that this will not be the case.
“Achieving buck-a-beer is problematic for a number of reasons. For craft brewers to achieve such a low-cost type of a product, it goes against our principals. It’s virtually impossible,” said Taraz Manzie, President and CEO of the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, and member of the Ontario Craft Brewers association.
“Great tasting beer can only be made with lots of great ingredients and great staff making living wages to live great - both do not come without expense. It takes lots of both of these to make a great craft beer - something Lake of the Woods Brewing Company and craft brewers in general are committed to doing, time and time again small batch after small batch.”
Manzie noted that the cost of packaging can range between twenty to thirty cents alone, and that brewers weren’t selling beer at the former Social Responsibility price of $1.25 anyways.
Manzie added that he doesn’t expect the buck-a-beer plan to significantly impact craft brewers, as some have said that it would hurt local businesses.
“The market that is enjoying craft beer will continue to do so. We don’t expect it to impact us much. Some people say that beer is beer, but I disagree. There’s 108 ingredients that are allowed to be in beer in Canada. Chemicals that no one wants in their body, some of the chemical names you can’t even produce. From our perspective, that’s not real beer,” Manzie added.
“What we put into our beer is important to us. Actual ingredients, living wages, and supporting the people that work for this company that live in the communities in which we operate. Part of the money from the sale of our beer absolutely goes back into the community. We’ve had a charity program since we’ve opened, since day one. It’s very important for us to support our community, charities, and non-profit organizations that go back into and help our communities,” Manzie continued.
Manzie adds that the Ontario Craft Brewers association has long been advocating for craft brewers to be able to operate their own retail stores outside of their manufacturing facilities.
Currently, brewers like the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company have been able to operate retail locations – as long as the retail store is located directly next to their manufacturing facility. The brewers association is also hoping to work with the government on a new beer taxation structure.
“Governments come and go, we have a business to run,” Manzie added.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Finance, the basic tax rate for beer will rise by three cents per litre on November 1 for large production brewers, as well as craft brewers across the province.
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Lake of the Woods Brewing Company