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Canada  

Alta. wants beer tax to stick

Alberta has served notice it will appeal a court ruling ordering the province to pay just over $2 million to two out-of-province breweries over a disputed beer subsidy.

The government filed the notice in Court of Queen's Bench on Monday.

A Queen's Bench justice ruled last month that the beer subsidy was unconstitutional and ordered restitution to the breweries that launched a court fight.

Great Western Brewing of Saskatchewan was awarded $1.9 million and Ontario-based Steam Whistle got $164,000.

The companies challenged the fairness of Alberta levying a uniform tax on beer, but at the same time providing subsidies to help small craft brewers in the province.

Last month, an appeal panel upheld an earlier ruling that the program violates interprovincial free trade rules.

The province has said it will make changes to comply with the ruling, but still believes Alberta brewers face an uneven playing field when they seek to market their beer in other provinces.

Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said Alberta is seeking clarification on certain aspects of the ruling.

"Alberta maintains the most open liquor market in the country," he said in a statement Tuesday. "Our model means that beer and liquor products from other provinces are welcome in Alberta, while our products are shut out of other provinces like B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario.

"As a result, we are not ruling out challenging other provinces' restrictions on Alberta beer.”

Drew Barnes, finance critic for the Opposition United Conservatives, said the province needs to fundamentally rethink its approach.

With multiple court and tribunal rulings against their scheme, it's clear that the NDP just can't admit this policy has failed," said Barnes.

"So now they're throwing more money at the problem. Alberta is a trading province, and we should be fighting to open trade across Canada, not working to close doors."



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