New inter-province trade deal isn't quite to Ottawa-area craft brewer's taste

A Conservative MP has tabled a private member's bill that would make it easier for beermakers like Beau's to sell their products outside Ontario
Beau's
Beau's co-founder Steve Beauchesne.

A sweeping new provincial trade agreement is unlikely to allow beer to pour any easier across provincial borders, but a Conservative MP is hoping to change that.

The Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), announced last week, is designed to strip away barriers and restrictions to interprovincial trade.

While the agreement tackled many parts of the economy, alcohol was left largely bottled up, with many restrictions on wineries, breweries and distillers left in place.

Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Ottawa-area brewery Beau’s, said selling beer into other provinces has been a major challenge.

The company now sells beer in almost all Canadian provinces, but each one was presented difficulties, he said.

In fact, he said, “we were selling into New York before we were selling into any other Canadian province,” he said.

Beauchesne said that one of the biggest hurdles is that Beau’s beer is taxed in most other provinces as an import, making it difficult to compete.

“If your beer is getting taxed a dollar more per litre (than a competitor’s), it’s tough.”

“If your beer is getting taxed a dollar more per litre (than a competitor’s), it’s tough.”

Conservative MP John Barlow said restrictions like that should be dismantled.
 
“It’s been a huge choke on our Canadian economy,” he said.

On Tuesdsay Barlow tabled a private member’s bill that would allow brewers to sell and market their products directly to consumers in other provinces.

“This is a way to start down that path towards what the Canadian Free Trade agreement failed to do,” he said.

Barlow said that provinces were reluctant to lose tax revenue from the sale of alcohol and the Liberal government didn’t push them hard enough during CFTA negotiations.

The agreement did create a working group that’s required to recommend ways to ease trade restrictions on alcohol. Karl Sasseville, press secretary to Economic development minister Navdeep Bains, said that a major step forward.  

"It marks the first time that all federal, provincial and territorial governments have agreed to jointly consider mechanisms for liberalizing trade in alcoholic beverages."

Barlow conceded that his bill wouldn’t solve the problem entirely. But, he said, it moves the issue forward.

“It’s not the end goal. This is a step in the right direction to at least open the doors a crack.”

Beauchesne said the market should be open, and he hopes governments make real progress to eliminate barriers.

“More variety and more access to beer is only a good thing,” he said. “Our beer does very well and we don’t need some arbitrary protection to be successful.”

This article originally appeared in Metro News.