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Trade Complaint Over Mark-Ups to Go Forward

scalesofjusticeA complaint under the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) – a trade deal signed between provinces and the federal government in 1994 – against the Alberta government’s new mark-up policies has been forwarded to a formal hearing, according to a press release from the Canadian Constitution Foundation. The complaint was formally filed by import agency Artisan Ales and is being supported by the Foundation. The claim is that Alberta is violating the provisions of the AIT by treating Alberta beer preferentially at the expense of imported beer. The complaint is being applied to both the original October policy change and the new single mark-up/grant program arrangement. (For background on this issue read here.)

The initial investigation found there were sufficient grounds to proceed with a full hearing. The decision is akin to a preliminary hearing, where there is no verdict on the case, just simply an assessment that there is sufficient evidence for a hearing to not be a waste of time.

This is the second case filed against the new policy. Steam Whistle earlier launched a lawsuit citing constitutional grounds. No decision has yet be rendered on that case. It is suspected to be a number of years before either case will fully resolve itself.

Artisan Ales is owned by Mike Tessier, a Calgary-based importer. It specializes in Quebec beer, including renowned Montreal brewery Dieu Du Ciel. The Canadian Constitution Foundation is a non-profit legal advocacy group that supports constitutional challenges around “individual freedom” and “economic liberty”. The Foundation has links with the right-wing think-tank Fraser Institute and has taken on cases advocating for greater private health care, protecting property rights and curtailing the rights of unions. It is also supporting the New Brunswick case over inter-provincial transport of beer as well a a variety of other consumer advocacy cases. The Foundation’s mandate suggests, for them at least, this is about more than beer prices and has a broader ideological purpose.

It was fully expected that the government would face additional challenges to its mark-up policy, and it is entirely likely this will not be the last complaint filed (one under New West Partnership is also possible). There is a great deal of money at stake in the cases. They will also affect the future of Alberta’s burgeoning craft beer scene. I speculate whether a complaint on behalf of an Alberta brewery against policies in some other jurisdictions might also be warranted at some point?

I suspect all eyes will be watching carefully (although don’t expect a resolution anytime soon, so no need to hold off that bathroom break). More as news warrants.


2 comments to Trade Complaint Over Mark-Ups to Go Forward

  • Maybe Alberta should simply adopt the same beer marketing regulations as are in place in BC or Ontario and watch everyone cry foul.

  • Craig

    Yep. I think every Alberta brewery should inquire about exporting to every other province in Canada, then get together and file a class action against every province where their import is hindered.

    I say if they want a war, let’s give them one.

    As Owen says, if interests are fighting to make Alberta fair, while the rest of the Canadian beer market stays shuttered, how is this right?


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