Alberta declares beer trade fight with Ontario over access to liquor stores

The Alberta government is opening a new front in its beer war with other provinces by targeting Ontario for what it says are its unfair trade barriers to Alberta-made suds and other alcoholic products.

The initiative emerged on Monday, November 26, 2018 as Alberta announced a full retreat on its own craft beer subsidies that were found by a judge last spring to be unconstitutional.

“Alberta has the most open liquor policy in the country, offering Albertans a choice of over 3,700 Canadian products … Alberta merchants stock and sell 745 alcoholic beverages from Ontario,” said Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous at an Edmonton brewery on Monday.

“Ontario is the largest market in the country, three times larger than our own, yet we can only find about 20 Alberta liquor products listed for sale in Ontario.”

The complaint under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement is being made against Ontario because it has the biggest liquor market in Canada but it could be expanded to include other provinces with similar barriers, Bilous said, adding he’s hoping for an amicable solution.

Under the CFTA, Ontario will have 120 days to respond to the complaint made in a letter sent Monday morning. The complaint may then proceed to a CFTA panel for a ruling on corrective actions or allowed retaliatory measures, with a provision for either side to appeal that ruling, explained Jean-Marc Prevost, Bilous’ press secretary.

Neither the Ontario trade ministry nor the Liquor Control Board of Ontario immediately responded to a request for comment.

In his letter to Ontario Trade Minister Todd Smith, Bilous complains that Ontario gives local brewers access to stores over Alberta brewers, gives Ontario beverages preferential shelf or refrigerated locations, requires Alberta brewers to provide commercially confidential information to their larger competitors to be listed and gives Ontario small brewers a significant discount on listing costs.

Neil Herbst, owner of Alley Kat Brewery of Edmonton, said he has faced numerous non-tariff barriers when trying to ship his products to Ontario, giving as an example a $400 laboratory fee assessed on a shipment of $1,600 worth of beer.

Also Monday, Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said he will cancel by Dec. 15 a program of grants for small Alberta craft brewers in order to bring provincial beer regulations in compliance with Canadian trade law.

The province will return to a system similar that was in place before 2015, with markups (a tax collected for the province) of $1.25 per litre applied to all beer sold in Alberta by producers of more than 50,000 hectolitres per year.

Smaller brewers, regardless of province of origin, will be able to apply for markups of between 10 and 60 cents per litre.

Alberta dropped its graduated markup system to go to a flat markup on all beer in 2015. It at first exempted brewers in Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta, then changed its rules so it applied to all Canadian brewers but introduced a subsidy program solely for Alberta’ small brewers.

It lost a CFTA panel ruling initiated by Artisan Ales, a Calgary-based beer importer, which argued the grant program unfairly tilted the market against its product.

Last June, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge ordered the province to pay a total of $2.1 million in restitution to Great Western Brewing of Saskatoon and Steam Whistle Brewing of Toronto, finding that the subsidies created a trade barrier against their products.

At the time, Ceci said the province would consider appealing that ruling.

His department says Alberta now has 137 liquor manufacturers, including 99 brewers. It says the number of brewers has nearly tripled since the subsidy program was introduced in 2016.

The province says it will introduce more supports for Alberta liquor manufacturers in the next few weeks.

NAFTA talks: Like Mexico, Canada may need ‘insurance’ against tariffs

Canada maintains that its efforts to evade American tariffs on steel and aluminum, and threatened tariffs on cars, are on a “separate track” from the ongoing NAFTA talks.

But that’s not how U.S. President Donald Trump sees it. His attempts to use tariffs as leverage in NAFTA negotiations have become such a ingrained habit by this point, he’s started using the word as a verb.

“If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be ‘Tariffed!'” he tweeted Monday.

China was in Trump’s sights at the start of the week — but by week’s end he also could be talking about Canada and his threat to impose “national security” tariffs of 20 to 25 per cent on its auto industry if it doesn’t soon join the new North American trade deal Americans sketched out with Mexico last month.

One of Trump’s loyal Congressional soldiers, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, warned Tuesday that Congress would “consider its options” if Canada doesn’t sign on.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland insists Canada won’t sign a bad deal.

“That’s not rhetoric,” she told reporters before she left again for Washington. Still, she said, Canadians have a “talent for compromise.”

I don’t think we’re going to get a NAFTA deal any time soon.– Monica de Bolle, senior fellow at Washington’s Peterson Institute for International Economics

Her negotiators face a tough call. Even if they strike deals and close the remaining chapters — by Thursday, Freeland’s Mexican counterpart suggested, if they’re going to have a text for Congress by the end of the month — a bigger question lurks.

Would a renegotiated NAFTA lift damaging steel and aluminum tariffs and shut down threats of future car tariffs? If it didn’t, why would Canada sign on?

Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at Washington’s Peterson Institute for International Economics, said people have been too focused on specific sticking points — dairy concessions, dispute resolution chapters, intellectual property demands and more.

“The big picture is the threat of tariffs,” she said. “And not just the threat. The ones already in place.”

READ MORE HERE: 

CBC News

Ontario’s Doug Ford to make case for NAFTA deal to U.S. counterparts

By Shawn Jeffords

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Vowing to stand with the federal Liberals, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative premier-designate said he will travel widely in the United States in a bid to help bolster continuing and complex NAFTA talks.

Doug Ford emerged from a nearly hour-long meeting Thursday afternoon with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canada’s ambassador to the United States, pledging his help in trade dispute. The businessman and owner of a label-making business with a branch in the U.S., leaned on his background in sales to tell reporters that he will help federal efforts by travelling to the U.S. to discuss trade with U.S. politicians.

“It’s going to be a full court press,” Ford said. “I’m going to be travelling to every single state because nothing is better than meeting someone eye-to-eye. I can get on the phone, but nothing is better than visiting someone eye-to-eye.”

Ford, whose Conservatives won a majority last week, will be continuing work begun by outgoing Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, who spent months meeting with American governors stressing the importance of reaching a new NAFTA agreement. Ontario will not sit on the sidelines, he said.

“My friends, we must stand together during these critical negotiations because there’s so much at stake,” he said. “Jobs across our economy, workers and their families, entire communities are all counting on us to defend Ontario’s interests and Canada’s interest.”

Freeland said the trade discussions are a non-partisan issue and praised Ford and all of Canada’s premiers for presenting a united front to the U.S.

“We’ve been very effective as a country in playing as Team Canada in this very critical negotiation,” she said. “I’m really grateful for all the work that premier’s across the country have been doing in being part of the Team Canada effort. As premier-designate Ford has said, it really has been a non-partisan effort.”

Freeland, who had been Washington earlier Thursday meeting U.S. Ambassador Richard Lighthizer, said she told the trade czar she would be would be meeting with Ontario’s premier-designate this afternoon.

“I think he was a little bit surprised,” she said during brief introductory remarks before her meeting with Ford. “I think that was a very important signal and message of Canada being absolutely unified when it comes to this very important issue.”

Freeland said she also consulted Ford on retaliatory tariffs that will be imposed on the U.S. in response to “illegal” tariffs Donald Trump slapped on Canadian steel and aluminium imports.

`”On July 1, Canada’s retaliation list will come into effect,” she said. “I want to be clear with Canadians, this is a perfectly reciprocal, measured response.”

Earlier this week, Ford met with auto and steel industry representatives affected by the trade talks and said recent American tariffs on aluminium and steel would hurt jobs on both sides of the border.

Ford’s remarks Thursday echoed his support for the federal government during the tough trade talks. Ford said that while he understands Trump was sticking up for his country in recent remarks criticizing Canada and the prime minister, “name-calling” won’t help resolve disagreements on trade between the two countries.

His comments come after Trump called Trudeau  “weak” and “dishonest” in a Twitter tirade the weekend after the prime minister spoke against American tariffs on steel and aluminium.

Saskatchewan to allow people to remove gender designation from birth certificate

A Saskatchewan mother hopes a court decision ordering the province to allow gender markers to be removed from birth certificates when requested _ even for children _ will help to further change people’s attitudes.

Fran Forsberg of Saskatoon filed a human rights complaint four years ago on behalf of her now 10-year-old daughter Renn to have the gender box on her birth certificate that was marked with an ‘M’ changed to an ‘F.’

She further asked that the box be removed all together.

Earlier this week, the provincial government agreed to the change and a judge in Regina ordered the move, opening the door for changes to all government identification in Saskatchewan and setting a legal precedent in Canada.

“I’m just so glad it’s over and I am so happy for other children, as well as other non-binary people,” Forsberg said Friday, May 25, 2018.

“Hopefully this will start the ball rolling for people educating and opening their minds and hearts for the rest of the world.

“There’s no reason to have gender on government ID or birth certificates. No reason at all.”

A second youth, 17-year-old Jordyn Dyck of Regina, joined the complaint last year. Jordyn’s father, Dustin Dyck, said they were overjoyed by the decision.

He said Jordyn has been bullied for being non-binary and hopes being able to show proof with new ID will stop most of it.

Saskatchewan is not the first to make the change. Earlier this month, Ontario started allowing residents to opt out of displaying a gender designation on their birth certificates.

But the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission says Saskatchewan is the first to be ordered by a court to allow the removal of gender boxes on the documents. The commission took the two complaints to court and, although there was supposed to be a hearing, the government agreed beforehand that its Vital Statistics Act violates its Human Rights Code.

Justice Lana Krogan then ordered that Renn and Jordyn receive new birth certificates in the coming days and that the province amend its legislation within 45 days.

Lawyer Larry Kowalchuk, who represented the two youths, said the decision forces the government to fix the problem for others.

“It will allow everyone in Saskatchewan who has a case or who is about to have a case to have their marker changed, regardless of age, from ‘F’ to ‘M’ or ‘M’ to ‘F’ or to have no marker at all,” he said.

He added that the judge’s ruling will likely apply to other forms of identification in Saskatchewan _ driver’s licences and health cards _ and can act as precedent in other provinces.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice did not respond for a request to comment on the decision.

But David Arnot, chief commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said the province has indicated it will comply.

He said the ruling will take care of eight other complaints currently before the commission.

Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland allow for non-binary markers, such as an ‘X’, on their birth certificates.

But Arnot said an ‘X’ can still mark some people for discrimination.

“Certainly we know that trans and fluid people face discrimination with housing and employment and in some cases travel. So this is seen as an important step forward.”

The federal government introduced gender-neutral passports last August, allowing people to mark gender boxes with an ‘X.’ Ottawa also now offers a gender-neutral option on applications for social insurance numbers.

Export Development Canada to pay $969M dividend to federal government

Export Development Canada is paying a $969-million dividend to the federal government this year.

The payment compares with a dividend of $786 million the agency paid last year and $500 million paid in 2016.

EDC generates revenue primarily from interest on loans, fees on its guarantee products, and premiums on its insurance products.

The crown corporation says it finished 2017 with $60 billion in assets and earned $1 billion for the year.

EDC’s full annual report will be released in the second quarter.

Liberal MP who weathered gun registry fight not worried about new firearms bill

He’s the Liberal MP for a large, rural Ontario riding with lots of gun owners, but Bob Nault says he is not worried about a voter backlash over the government’s new firearms bill.

The Conservatives say the legislation would unfairly target law-abiding hunters and target shooters with fresh measures.

Nault, however, sees nothing in the bill that could stir up the sort of controversy that erupted over the universal long-gun registry in the 1990s – a fight he remembers well.

The latest legislation will have no major impacts on legitimate firearms owners, Nault, 62, said in an interview. “I think this is going to be put to bed fairly quickly.”

Not if the Conservatives have any sway.

Since the bill’s introduction last month, Tory MPs have called the move to tighten controls on the sale and tracking of firearms the creation of a new national long-gun registry.

The bill would require retailers to keep records of firearms inventory and sales for at least 20 years, a measure intended to assist police in investigating gun trafficking and other crimes. It would also require a gun seller to ensure a buyer’s licence is valid prior to the transaction.

“By going to the store level as opposed to the home, the Liberals are trying to bring in the registry by a back door,” Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said in the House of Commons. “In several Parliaments in the past we saw that it did not work, it did not hit crime, it cost hundreds of millions of dollars and it targeted law-abiding people as opposed to lawbreakers.”

The Conservative government dismantled the long-gun registry, a Liberal initiative that mushroomed into a costly computer boondoggle and stoked resentment in the firearms community.

The Liberals are quick to note the new plan to require commercial retailers to keep sales records would revive a measure that existed from 1979 until 1995, when universal registration of guns essentially replaced the store ledgers. Most merchants already record sales for safety and liability reasons and because it affects their insurance, the Liberals say.

As for greater scrutiny of sales, it’s the buyer’s licence, not the gun, that’s being verified, and no information about the firearm is exchanged, they add.

The Conservatives are using the firearms bill as “a wedge issue” to capitalize on the wariness of rural residents, said Nault, who won the northern Ontario riding of Kenora by just 498 votes in the 2015 election.

But he prefers to view the latest federal effort to control firearms as one step on a long path that stretches back to the late 19th century.

Nault, a gun owner whose father taught him to shoot as a youngster, was one of the MPs who provided advice to the government about what the Liberal caucus was hearing in the mid-1990s as Allan Rock, then justice minister, pushed ahead with the long-gun registry.

The current bill is nowhere near as far-reaching, Nault said. As of late last week, he had heard from 45 constituents with concerns about the legislation in his sprawling riding that covers one-third of the province.

Among the reservations: a measure that would restore the authority of RCMP experts to classify firearms without political influence, repealing cabinet’s authority to overrule Mountie determinations, and another that would roll back some automatic authorizations to transport restricted and prohibited firearms, such as handguns and assault weapons.

“As I’ve said to my colleagues, of course we’ll lose some votes in rural Canada, because whenever you talk about firearms, people naturally get upset about it,” Nault said.

But he insisted the bill is “quite balanced” and will have “virtually no impact” on 98 per cent of gun owners.

He stressed the importance of a provision that would expand the scope of background checks on those who want to acquire a gun. Instead of just the five years immediately preceding a licence application, personal history questions would cover a person’s entire lifetime.

“In Canada, owning a firearm is a privilege, not a right,” Nault said.

“Hopefully people will start to see this more as a non-partisan issue.”

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