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Fighting for a better craft beer industry

The Ontario Craft Brewers works closely with government to create a better environment for craft brewers to grow and produce world-class beer. On this page you’ll find some recent advocacy wins and activity as well as the association’s advocacy priorities.

Advocacy wins

  • Secured the freezing of the basic beer tax rate from March 2020 to March 2024.
  • Advocated for and secured an exemption for breweries from new Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) legislation.
  • Worked closely with government to ensure breweries could access small business pandemic support programs including:
    • The Ontario Small Business Support Grant Program, which provided up to $10,000 for eligible businesses affected by public health closures;
    • The Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program, which provides rebate payments of up to 100 per cent of the property tax and energy costs incurred by businesses while subject to public health restrictions;
    • Six-month, interest free tax deferrals on most provincial taxes including beer, wine and spirits taxes.
  • Advocated for and secured regulatory changes to create a version of the Caterers’ Endorsement for Breweries with a By-the-Glass Endorsement. The new Caterers’ Endorsement serves as a temporary extension of a by-the-glass endorsement, allowing eligible brewers to serve and sell their beer at events away from their breweries, like a community festival.
  • Advocated for and secured licensing changes that permit the sale of Ontario-made craft beer at farmers’ markets.
  • Secured changes to the Liquor Licensing and Control Act regulations including allowing breweries to sell and serve anywhere on their property.
  • Permanently allowed patio expansions without fees, applications, waiting periods or AGCO inspections.
  • Made craft beer eligible for curbside pickup at grocery stores and allowed breweries to charge fees for home and other direct deliveries.
  • Extended hours of sale from 9:00 am to midnight.
  • Extended retail and home delivery hours and allowed licensees to fill and sell growlers.
  • Eliminated mandated serving sizes in tap rooms.
  • Gave municipalities flexibility to make rules around public consumption, e.g. in parks.
  • Allowed dogs on brewery patios and taprooms.

Recent advocacy activity

  • The Association presented budget recommendations to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and was invited to present budget recommendations directly to the Minister of Finance, Peter Bethlenfalvy. 
  • The Association developed and implemented a grassroots mobilization campaign during the 2022 provincial election. Over 50 member breweries download the campaign materials and used them to meet with local candidates and discuss key policy issues important to the craft beer sector.
  • The Association celebrated the 13th annual Ontario Craft Beer Week from June 12-18, 2022 and encouraged members to use the occasion to engage with local elected officials, building on the grassroots election campaign theme of #RealLocalCraftBeer. The campaign highlighted the importance of bricks and mortar breweries as the driving force of craft beer jobs, and emphasized the need for continued support to help unleash the next phase of the sector’s growth. A growing number of elected officials participated in OCB week this year either by sharing supportive content or visiting a local brewery.
  • The Association worked with the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing to develop and release a report on Ontario’s Craft Brewing Industry. The report outlined the outsized role bricks-and-mortar craft breweries play in their local communities and identifies challenges to further growth that were exacerbated by the pandemic. This report was shared with key political decision makers. 
    Report: Ontario’s Craft Brewing Industry: Contributions, Community, and the Challenges Ahead.
  • The Association worked with the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA) to develop a full economic impact study on Ontario’s Craft Beer Sector. The final report, The Significance of Craft Beer to Ontario’s Economic Ecosystem describes the current positive impact of bricks-and-mortar craft brewers on Ontario’s economy, the obstacles to further growth, and potential interventions by government. The report was shared with key political decision makers across government.

Advocacy priorities

The Association is currently advocating for a number of issues critical to Ontario craft brewers.

Tax Reform

We recommend the government begin work on a restructured and more progressive Basic Beer Tax that incentivizes growth for bricks-and-mortar craft brewers of all sizes. The OCB is urging the provincial government to reform Ontario’s beer tax system in order to:

  • Reduce Red Tape: Today brewers pay a multitude of taxes and tax rates, including a Beer Can Tax, Basic Beer Tax and Volume Tax in a confusing and complex system that drains the resources of small businesses and often leads to errors that cost brewers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Incentivize Growth: The current regressive tax structure punishes brewers who grow and produce more beer. In many cases, it makes more financial sense for brewers to produce less. In Ontario the smallest brewers pay $77.97 in tax on their first hectolitre (hL) of beer compared to just $10 under Alberta’s progressive tax structure.
  • Allow Industry Consolidation to Stay in Ontario: Low production thresholds in the current system make it extremely difficult for Ontario brewers to merge or acquire other Ontario brewers without a punitive tax increase. As a result, breweries are being bought up by international companies and economic benefits are leaving Ontario.
  • Encourage Capital Investment: Ontario’s current beer tax structure was intended to recognize the capital-intensive nature of opening a brewery, however breweryless producers who do not own or operate their own brewery can claim the lowest tax rates. This gives breweryless producers an unfair advantage in the market and disincentivizes bricks-and-mortar breweries from investing to increase their capacity.
  • Treat All Brewers Fairly When Adjusting Rates: Over the past decade the tax rate for Ontario-made craft beer has increased almost three-times faster than the rate for internationally owned brewing companies and has cost small businesses like ours $68 million over the last 10 years.

Expanding Retail Opportunities

The structure of Ontario’s beer retailing, and distribution channels are controlled by large companies and government agencies. As such they structurally privilege internationally owned macro brewers at the expense of local craft breweries. This restricts consumer choice, limits the ability of Ontarians to buy locally made beer, and impedes the growth of the craft beer industry.

The Master Framework Agreement (MFA) between the Government of Ontario and a conglomerate of large multinational brewers which severely limits market access for Ontario-made craft brewers is set to expire at the end of 2025. We urge the government to announce this year that it will not renegotiate the agreement and instead allow it to expire.

Government should then create more opportunities for craft brewers to get their product to consumers and develop a new beverage alcohol retail regulatory framework with input from craft brewers, to ensure that craft beer made locally by Ontario producers can thrive in any existing or retail channel.

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