Ontario’s Craft Distillers Deserve Fairness

Ms. Catherine Fife: I rise today to speak about Ontario’s craft distilleries, a small, new and, until now, growing sector of Ontario’s beverage alcohol sector. Two weeks ago, the Minister of Finance delivered his fall economic statement in this House. Two days later the Liberal government tabled Bill 70; the next day I received a briefing on the bill. That whole week, not one person in the government mentioned that this year’s fall economic statement will mean the end of Ontario’s craft distilleries.

The Ontario Craft Distillers Association noticed the changes in schedule 1 of Bill 70, and they responded. From the OCDA press release dated November 18: “Ontario’s … Dispiriting Distillery Tax Deals Major Blow to Home-Grown Small Batch Spirits….

“This bill demonstrates that the Liberal government doesn’t support the growth of small businesses or a healthy and competitive domestic market.”

Since then, distillers across the province have told me that if Bill 70 passes without amendment, they will be closing their doors. There are simple changes that this government could have made which would have allowed these small businesses, these entrepreneurs, to succeed. They asked for a graduated tax rate like the craft beer industry has: a lower rate for smaller producers. They asked for per-litre taxation, again like the beer industry has, so producers can invest in the quality of their product and are taxed on just what ends up in the bottles. Both of these requests were ignored.

These craft distillers deserve a fighting chance to be successful in the province of Ontario. Will this government listen?