Opinion – PC “Buck a Beer” Draws Fire from Small Brewers

Thunder Bay and Drinking - A northern tradition?

Napanee Brewing CompanyTHUNDER BAY – OPINION – Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced the Progressive Conservative “Buck A Beer” promise has been kept.

The Napanee Brewing Company has issued a statement on why the small brewing company is not supportive of the initiative.

Here is their statement:

We’ve had a lot of questions the last day or two about #BuckABeer, and as to why we don’t support it. In short, the Buck A Beer program is bad for small Ontario breweries. Here’s why:

1) It “challenges” small brewers to race to the bottom. The premier’s “Buck A Beer Challenge” invites breweries — and, by the choice of making the announcement at a small Ontario brewery — strongly implies the challenge is to Ontario Craft Breweries. The result of this is the government “challenging” small, family-owned businesses in towns across the province to make less money on the product that they work so hard to produce — meaning less money for their families, the local folks they employ, and their communities as a whole.

2) It favours Big Multinational Brewers. On May 26, the Ontario PC party said “have been forced to pay inflated prices for beer in order to increase the profits of big corporations. We’re going to allow price competition for beer and this will save consumers money. ” However, in the new Buck A Beer program, their primary incentives are: “Recognition by the LCBO, Promotional discounts and promotional displays at the LCBO; Advertising in LCBO literature.” The assumption is that this product is to be sold at the LCBO, rather than at Brewery Retail Stores. However, only the largest multinational brewers can afford to sell Buck A Beer and not lose money, meaning that all of those premium LCBO shelf spots, discounts and promotional consideration may be mostly to the benefit of the “big corporations” themselves, and will likely only accomplished the feat of taking money out of the pockets of small brewers who participate in the program.

3) It commoditizes and politicizes craft beer. One of the best things about beer — especially craft beer — is that it is egalitarian. No matter your political stripes, nearly everyone can take a moment to enjoy their favourite lager, IPA, or stout, and in many cases, support their local economy at the same time. The “Buck A Beer Challenge” instead implies that beer is a vague, largely similar commodity, like buying screws at the hardware store. It doesn’t recognize the incredible diversity and quality of our Ontario craft beer market, and simply implies it’s all the same. It has also turned that same beer into a political play piece, to be shown to cameras and bragged about in sound bites; after all, the premier himself said “promise made, promise kept,” as if that was all there was to it. With an increasingly stressful and worrying political climate in our country, it’s disappointing to see something as hopeful as craft beer appropriated and divided.

We don’t care how much or how little brewers sell their beer for. Want to make beer for a buck? Go for it. However, upending the playing field to coerce businesses into “playing ball” to get the attention Buck A Beer will bring doesn’t do it fairly. Rather, how about examining Ontario’s provincial beer taxes? Or cracking down on the “Pay To Play” our industry suffers from daily, despite its clear illegality? There are so many more meaningful things we could be discussing while “Buck A Beer” sucks up all the oxygen in the room.

Instead of #BuckABeer, let’s talk about #BuyLocalBeer, and support the hard-working small breweries in our communities, rather than the Big Multinationals that already benefit unfairly in Ontario.

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