Canadians, and their local restaurants and pubs, already pay some of the highest alcohol taxes anywhere in the world.
Next April 1, the government is going to want even more money from cash-strapped Canadians and desperate small business owners.
The timing could not be any worse as the global pandemic continues to crater the Canadian economy. Just as households are struggling to make ends meet and local restaurants are disappearing, the federal government continues to apply an automatic tax increase on beer, wine and spirits.
But the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its network, which includes the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, is hoping to help ease some of that burden after launching the Freeze the Alcohol Tax campaign. It calls on the federal government to put an end to the unfair alcohol escalator tax in the next federal budget and give Canadians a much-deserved break.
This automatic yearly increase was introduced by the federal government in Budget 2017 without consultation or economic analysis of its impact on consumers, the food service industry, producers and their agricultural suppliers.
“To have something that’s automatically increasing is problematic for sure,” says Matthew Rolleman, co-owner of Thirteen Food & Beverage in downtown Cambridge, explaining how any increase will eventually filter down to the customer. “We have to be a viable business and it’s got to come from somewhere.”
Alin Dinu, owner of The Easy Pour Wine Bar in Blair agrees, noting the cost of wine he serves often must be adjusted.
“I don’t always keep the same prices for guests, unfortunately, but they understand,” he says, adding even a temporary tax freeze would help customers.
Helping small business owners and giving consumers even a small break is the goal of the campaign says Canadian Chamber of Commerce CEO Perrin Beatty.
“Surely, amid a global pandemic and a once-a-century economic downturn, there is cause to stop an automatic tax increase to ensure we help everyday Canadians to cope with the impacts of COVID-19,” he says.
And although he doesn’t have a problem with the tax in principle during times of prosperity, Matthew says putting a hold on the tax would be a welcomed goodwill gesture during this uncertain economic time.
“Anybody in the restaurant business will tell you we definitely need all the help we can get, there’s no question,” he says. “It would be a good time now because we need all hands-on deck.”
Matthew says although his patio was busy throughout the summer, he’s not sure what the coming months will bring. Alin concurs and says Easy Pour’s new patio, which seats about 20 under current COVID-19 restrictions, has been very busy. However, he is unsure how long it can remain open.
“People aren’t super excited about coming inside right now,” says Matthew. “There is such uncertainty.”
To help drive the Freeze the Alcohol Tax campaign, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Beer Canada, Spirits Canada and various Canadian hospitality industry.
“Hotels, restaurants and bars having been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with over a million jobs lost and thousands of restaurants closed permanently. Keeping the escalator tax in place does nothing but cause harm to businesses and the thousands of Canadians they employ,” says Luke Chapman, Interim President of Beer Canada.
This sentiment is echoed by Jim Wescott, president of Spirits Canada.
“Canadians wouldn’t stand for automatic tax increases on their take home pay, and they shouldn’t stand for it on their favourite Canadian whisky or cocktail that they enjoy as they socialize or celebrate key life moments with family and friends,” he says. “Canadians elect parliamentarians to scrutinize how money is collected as well as spent, and taxes going up without such scrutiny is completely undemocratic.”
The campaign is supported by:
Arterra Wines Canada
Barley Council of Canada
CWB Franchise Finance
Firkin Group of Pubs
Grain Growers of Canada
Northland Restaurant Group
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Service Inspired Restaurants (SIR Corp)
St. Louis Bar and Grill Restaurants
The Beer Store
For more information on the Freeze the Alcohol Tax campaign, visit: www.freezethealcoholtax.ca
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