Windsor

'We're asking the government for a little bit of help': local wineries, chamber of commerce proposing changes

The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce is advocating for policy changes for the wine and grape sector.

Currently wineries pay a 35 per cent import tax to sell their products at LCBOs

Currently the wineries have to sell their product through the LCBO network, where a 35 per cent import tax is applied. (CBC)

The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce is advocating for policy changes for the wine and grape sector.

Rakesh Naidu, Chamber of Commerce president in Windsor is bringing a policy resolution to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. The resolution asks for new retail rules around wine to promote the growth of the Ontario wine sector.

"It's about supporting the wineries in our region," said Naidu. "They employee hundreds of people and they help in diversification of our region."

Local winery owners are also backing the motion.

"The real key here is that small wineries actually create a lot of jobs," said Tom O'Brien, with Coopers Hawk Vineyards in Harrow. "We're asking the government for a little bit of help."

O'Brien said if they sell a bottle of wine from his storefront, after taxes he keeps about $11. The LCBO pays him only about $6.50 per bottle. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

O'Brien said the rebate will allow them to pay their staff better, as well as provide better wines and more education for the consumer. 

Naidu said the industry has had some challenges in the last few years, especially when it comes to competing with international brands. He attributes that problem to the taxes. 

Currently the wineries have to sell their product through the LCBO network, where a 35 per cent import tax is applied.

"Our products made locally, grown locally, should not have the same tax," said Naidu. 

Wineries also have to pay a sales tax and a retail sales tax in addition to the import tax. 

"We can ship wine to British Columbia, but we can't ship to Quebec or Alberta," explained O'Brien. The 35 per cent tax drives up the price for the consumer. 

O'Brien said if they sell a bottle of wine from his storefront, after taxes he keeps about $11. The LCBO pays him only about $6.50 per bottle. He wants a higher rate — about $8 — to put more money back into the economy.

According to Naidu, the resolution will make stronger wineries with better products, and that wineries might pass their savings onto the consumer. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Naidu said the Chamber is also asking to be able to sell to other retail stores, not just the LCBO. Chambers of Commerce from Leamington, Prince Edward County, Grimsby and the Greater Niagara area are also supporting the resolution.

According to Naidu, the resolution will make stronger wineries with better products, and that wineries might pass their savings onto the consumer. 

"I hope they can see through this that they will create an environment where the wineries will prosper."

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