On­tario scraps beer tax in­crease

The Hamilton Spectator - - Canada & World - SHAWN JEFFORDS

TORONTO — The On­tario gov­ern­ment is can­celling a sched­uled in­crease in the provin­cial beer tax that was set to kick in next month — a move that will see the province forgo $11 mil­lion in po­ten­tial an­nual rev­enue.

The Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives said Fri­day the three-cent-per­l­itre in­crease was planned by the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral regime and will be scrapped.

“This is just one more tax hike that was due,” Fi­nance Min­is­ter Vic Fedeli said in an in­ter­view. “We look at ev­ery sin­gle op­por­tu­nity to rein in the taxes. From the largest pos­si­ble, the cap-and­trade tax, all the way through to the beer tax.”

The gov­ern­ment said beer taxes have in­creased by three cents per litre each year since 2015. Beer and wine taxes brought in rev­enues of roughly $589 mil­lion in 2016-2017.

The halt­ing of this year’s in­crease — which was set to take ef­fect Nov. 1 — will mean On­tario’s trea­sury will forgo $11 mil­lion in po­ten­tial rev­enue that would have come in be­tween Novem­ber and the end of the fis­cal year in March 2019, the gov­ern­ment said.

The move comes as the gov­ern­ment has said it faces a chal­lenge to deal with the province’s deficit and debt. Fedeli noted that tax in­creases aren’t part of the gov­ern­ment’s strat­egy, say­ing debt and deficit would be tack­led through “ef­fi­cien­cies.”

The gov­ern­ment is re­view­ing the province’s ap­proach to beer and wine sales, in­clud­ing the pos­si­ble ex­pan­sion of sales into cor­ner and big box stores.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said the Ford gov­ern­ment is “ob­sessed” with beer­re­lated poli­cies at the ex­pense of more press­ing mat­ters.

“The av­er­age On­tar­ian won’t no­tice a one-cent dif­fer­ence on beer, but they will no­tice the de­clin­ing state of our hos­pi­tals and schools,” he said.

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