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Steam Whistle/GWB Case Goes to Court

The long awaited hearing of the lawsuit launched by Steam Whistle and Great Western Brewing finally takes place tomorrow and Friday (June 22 & 23). The case, over the Alberta government’s changes to mark-up policy and implementation of a grant program for Alberta brewers (for background read here and here), has been slowly working its way through the system – affidavits, assembling of exhibits, cross-examinations, preliminary matters – you know the stuff that makes legal matters so slow.

Don’t expect a judgement this week. I suspect the judge will want to deliberate and will release their decision in the coming weeks (likely when I am on holidays, as those things usually go). But it is a key turning point at any rate as all of the arguments will be put forth by both sides.

I know the case and its outcome is much anticipated across the entire beer industry, as it will significantly shape the direction of beer policy in the country. Of course, no matter the decision, you can be sure the losing party will appeal; there is simply too much at stake for all sides.

This is likely the appropriate moment to acknowledge that earlier in the spring I was contracted by the AGLC to produce a report to be used in the case. The report, which due to legal blah blah blah became an affidavit (a clunky conversion process to be sure), was a cross-provincial review of beer policies. Specifically, I was asked to look at four policy areas: listing process and approvals; market conditions and government promotional support; mark-ups and other fees; and government financial support for breweries.

I am not at liberty to share the report at this time. Although since it has been filed with the courts, it is a public document if you had the gumption to trot down to the Calgary courthouse. I can say I learned A LOT about beer policy in Canada and likely spent more time digging into the murky details of regulating beer than any human being should be asked to do. I am hopeful that when the time becomes appropriate I can share some of the knowledge I gleaned with loyal readers.

I am also aware that my decision to research the report on behalf of the AGLC may lead some to question my objectivity on this issue and suggest I am somehow “tainted”. To those detractors I say three things. First, my mandate was a factual one. I was to research past and existing policies pertaining to beer. My opinion was not relevant. Second, I have never claimed objectivity (indeed, I question anyone’s ability to be truly objective). I am what I am – an independent observer of the beer industry. Specifically on the mark-up policy and grant program, I have openly stated my position.

Third, and this is most important for me, I believe I should be judged by my actions. On this and any beer issue I try very hard to listen to all sides, to accurately reflect their positions and to be fair to all involved. Mostly, I try to recognize these kinds of issues are complex. Whether I succeed I leave for others to judge.

For the record I will continue to comment on the court case and other developments in the beer world and I will continue to be guided by the principles of writing honestly and being transparent about my own involvements.

More as events warrant.

1 comment to Steam Whistle/GWB Case Goes to Court

  • I would be so interested to see that report if it ever becomes unclassified, or if I happen to have photocopy and search money in my pocket and am in Calgary to get the affidavit.

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