Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government is lowering the price floor for beer and will be offering brewers incentives to reduce their prices in time for Labour Day weekend.
It was one of Mr. Ford’s signature campaign promises during the spring election, and on Tuesday the Ford government announced it was going ahead with a plan to lower the minimum price of a bottle or can of beer to $1 from the current $1.25.
Brewers are not required to charge the lower rate and few in the province sell at the current minimum. The price does not include a bottle deposit and does not apply to draft beer.
“We’re bringing back a buck-a-beer to Ontario. Once upon a time you could buy a beer for $1 a bottle. Consumers loved it, participating breweries loved it; it was a win-win,” said Mr. Ford during the announcement at a brewery in Prince Edward County.
The Premier criticized the former Liberal government for increasing the price a decade ago by 25 cents. “They created a new rule, another piece of red tape that made a buck-a-beer illegal,” said Mr. Ford.
The Liberals had cited the government’s “social responsibility” mandate for the 25-cent increase in beer prices at the time. However, Mr. Ford said he didn’t think the lower prices would lead to more drinking and driving. “I think people in Ontario are mature enough to know when they’ve had one too many,” he said.
The Premier did not comment on Tuesday on his larger campaign plan to allow for the wider sale of alcohol in Ontario, including expanding beer and wine sales to corner stores and big box stores.
The lower price, which is limited to beer with an alcohol volume of less than 5.6 per cent, will take effect on Aug. 27 and is expected to be reflected on store shelves on Labour Day weekend. The new price will not be indexed to inflation.
To provide incentives for brewers to lower their prices, the government is creating what it calls the buck-a-beer challenge, which will provide participating breweries with incentives at the provincially-owned LCBO stores. Beers lowered to $1 could receive promotional and advertising support, short-term discounts and more prominent displays in the stores.
“Give the tax payers a break and let them have 24 cans of beer for 24 bucks. I think it’s a great deal,” said Mr. Ford in an appeal to brewers.
The move will have no effect on the province’s $589-million in revenue from beer and alcohol taxes, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said.
“There are no tax dollars that are being reduced to allow for the buck-a-beer,” said Mr. Fedeli. “The Premier is asking the beer producers to lower their price.”