Calgary

Alberta will appeal court ruling against craft beer support program, premier says

The Alberta government will appeal a court decision that found its program aimed at helping small craft brewers breaches the Canadian Constitution, Premier Rachel Notley says.

'We have the best barley in the world, and it is ridiculous that we have been able to get to this point'

The beer markup of $1.25 applies to all products regardless of where they are produced. (CBC)

The Alberta government will appeal a court decision that found its program aimed at helping small craft brewers breaches the Canadian Constitution, Premier Rachel Notley says.

A Calgary judge ordered the government last month to pay nearly $2.1 million in restitution to two out-of-province breweries.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Gillian Marriott ruled that beer markups and grants that favoured Alberta craft brewers through the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program are unconstitutional.

Speaking to reporters Monday after flipping flapjacks on the grounds of the McDougall Centre, the government's downtown Calgary offices, Notley confirmed Alberta will appeal the ruling and seek a stay of it coming into effect as the court battle continues.

"But even as that is going on, we'll be looking at other ways to address the issue," Notley said, without specifying what measures her government is considering.

Marriott found that Saskatchewan's Great Western Brewing Company is entitled to receive $1.9 million in restitution; Ontario-based Steam Whistle Brewing is eligible for $163,964.

Marriott also ruled that the per-litre markup schemes — introduced by the government in 2015 and changed in 2016 — violated section 121 of the Constitution.

The judge gave Alberta a six-month window in which to bring its policy into compliance with the Constitution.

Earlier in June, the provincial program was also ruled non-compliant under the Agreement of Internal Trade.

Asked why the province is appealing, the premier said, "So, when you lose, you appeal."

"At the end of the day, we are going to stand up to ensure that Alberta has a strong and vibrant brewing industry," she said.

"We have the best barley in the world, and it is ridiculous that we have been able to get to this point, where every other part of the country can protect its liquor industry and Alberta hasn't, and we haven't been able to grow it as much as we should."

With files from Michelle Bellefontaine

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