Wine and beer taxes: are they on the way up in Ontario?

Taxes on beer and wine may be going up soon, if a note buried in a report on reforming wine sales in the province is any indication.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa is not denying a tax hike could come in next week's budget

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne picks up Hamilton-made Collective Arts beer at a Toronto Loblaws last month alongside Finance Minister Charles Sousa. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Taxes on beer and wine may be going up soon, if a note buried in a report on reforming wine sales in the province is any indication.

The report from a government advisory council calls for "fairer tax treatment" across the three categories of alcohol: wine, beer and spirits.

Currently, "spirits are subject to a higher mark-up than wine," the report says, and wine is sold at a higher mark-up than beer.

"As a result, mark-ups and taxes have increasingly become barriers to fair competition," the report says, adding that the government should "take steps to more closely harmonize" mark-ups and tax rates for beer, wine and spirits.

"The council recommends that government act to ensure fairer tax treatment across the major categories of beverage alcohol," the report says. "We have specifically recommended that there be no increase in spirits mark-ups at this time."

The government has agreed to adopt all 29 recommendations contained in the advisory council's report.

Asked Thursday whether taxes on wine and beer will go up in next week's provincial budget, Finance Minister Charles Sousa didn't say no.

"This is a $2 billion industry," Sousa said during a news conference. "A large proportion and amount of that are imported wines that come to Ontario. In regards to some of that revenue and the implication that has, it'll be released in the coming week."

Asked again later Thursday on Power & Politics, Sousa would only say that "there is going to be a levelling of the playing field" to allow Ontario consumers to pay "one of the lowest" costs for wine and beer in the country.

Pressed on the issue, Sousa would only say that he's "not going to speculate as to what is in the budget."

On Thursday, Sousa and Premier Kathleen Wynne announced plans to allow up to 300 grocery stores to sell wine across the province, starting with 70 stores this fall.

During a media event at a Toronto grocery store, Wynne noted that the price of beer and wine in the province "is lower than in other jurisdictions across the country." 


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