Nova Scotia

Oland Brewery quits sponsoring Halifax events

Oland Brewery, which makes Alexander Keith's beer, has cancelled its sponsorship of public events held by the Halifax Regional Municipality because of controversy about the optics of alcohol companies sponsoring events aimed at children.

Mayor says it's time for the city to discuss a sponsor policy

Oland Brewery has cancelled its sponsorship of public events held by the Halifax Regional Municipality. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Oland Brewery, which makes Alexander Keith's beer, has cancelled its sponsorship of public events held by the Halifax Regional Municipality because of controversy about the optics of alcohol companies sponsoring events aimed at children.

"We don't want to be part of a controversy around what are otherwise great community events so we tried to do the right thing by giving donations to city events," said Wade Keller, a spokesman for Oland Brewery.

"Some people don't think that's a good idea so we'll find other places to make our donations."

The brewery gives approximately $20,000 every year to Alexander Keith's Natal Day celebrations and $5,000 to the Halifax Regional Municipality's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Keller said the total number of donations made across the Maritimes by Labatt Breweries — the parent company of Oland Brewery — equal hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He said after this weekend's tree lighting at Grand Parade, there will be no more money for HRM events.

"We took this decision very seriously. We had a lot of conversation about it and hopefully there will be other people in the community who step forward," Keller told CBC News.

Sponsorship policy needed, says Keller

A health promoter and educator with Addictions Prevention and Treatment Services in the Capital District Health Authority took to Twitter last week questioning whether brewery sponsorships are appropriate at events aimed at children.

Keller said it's not the first time the issue has come up and its continuing resurgence speaks to a need for a sponsorship policy for the Halifax Regional Municipality.

"It comes up over and over again. The last couple of years that I've been involved with Alexander Keith's Natal Day, it's come up at Halifax regional council. It's come up the last couple of years over the tree lighting. When one of our competitors put money towards the oval, it was a big discussion there," he said.

"The city needs a policy on sponsorships — not just alcohol sponsorships but sponsorships in general. We'd welcome the opportunity to be part of that discussion but in the meantime, we just don't want to take away from these events."

Keller said Oland Brewery will continue to sponsor private events around the Maritimes.

Mayor Mike Savage said the city needs to make a decision about a sponsorship policy.

"I think that there is some room for certain alcohol-related companies to be involved in sponsorships. Obviously they sponsor the best junior hockey team in Canada right now and there's a lot of other things they do that may be very useful for us. But we do need to have a chat about it, that absolutely makes sense," he said.

Savage said he wants input from people like Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical health officer.

Last year council approved Molson as a sponsor of the Halifax skating oval.

The Oland Brewery said it would be open to resuming sponsorships for the Halifax Regional Municipality once the city has a policy in place.

now