Federal alcohol tax to go up in April; Metro Vancouver industry workers prepare

A federal tax on alcohol is going up on April 1, and that’s not a joke. Monika Gul finds out what that means for local businesses, and what it could mean for you

Locals looking to crack open a cold one next month might want to stock up on their beverage of choice, as a federal alcohol tax increase is set to start on April 1.

One business owner in North Vancouver says he is preparing for the tax increase by printing out new labels for every single item in his liquor store.

“The importer brings something in, he’s being taxed on it. We purchased something, we’re being taxed, and then the consumer comes and buys the product — they get taxed again…It adds up, really adds up,” Jamie Quinscy, the manager of the Mountainside Liquor Store, said.

The alcohol excise duty automatically goes up every year, and is set to jump up by 6.3 per cent on April 1.

a man with white hair creates labels for the alcohol in his store. This comes as the new federal alcohol tax taxes places on april 1

Jamie Quinscy, the manager of the Mountainside Liquor Store, creates new labels for the store’s products. (Monika Gul/CityNews)

Although it may seem like a big boost, Quinscy says customers here won’t really notice the hike because he’s lowering his prices at the same time to counter it, and also to stay competitive.

“The last thing a person wants is to buy their six-pack, and all of a sudden it’s a buck more, or two bucks more. No, we don’t want that to happen,” he said.

Jeff Guignard, the executive director of BC’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees, says the tax is coming at a bad time for people.

“At the time when inflation is at record highs, and everything from food to rent is going up, we think it’s the wrong time to be increasing excise taxes like this,” he said.

Guignard says the excise hike means the cost of everything from wine to beer will go up a little bit. Some will go up by a few cents, but others could be as much as $1.

He says he wants the federal government to stop the hike.

a row of alcohol at a liquor store. The federal alcohol tax is set to increase on april 1

A row of alcohol for sale at a liquor store. (Monika Gul/CityNews Image)

“When this policy was implemented, and it was indexed to inflation, that makes sense when inflation is only a couple of per cents a year. But when it’s at 6.3 per cent, no one anticipated that,” he said.

“The federal government can do the right thing here and cap it at 2 per cent in the budget…It’s logical, it’s reasonable, it’s fair, and it’s the right thing to do.”

But one brewery owner says that the tax isn’t that big of a deal as other things are costing him much more.

“If you’re talking about a tall can, it’s point-1 cent per tall can,” David Bowkett, an owner and brewer at Powell Street Brewing in Vancouver, said.

Read more: B.C. beer and wine makers say new federal tax will make alcohol pricier

Bowkett says while bigger breweries may feel the sting of the tax hike more, for him, increases to the other costs of doing business have been more worrisome.

“The cost of ingredients have gone up 30 per cent. Our supply costs have gone up 25 per cent. Our rent, or at least since the beginning of the pandemic, went up 40 per cent. So those are significant, significant costs…which will increase our price of the beer on the shelves,” he explained.

While opposition MPs voted on Wednesday in favour of a motion to stop the tax hike, so far the Liberal government hasn’t indicated whether it will budge.

“It adds up, really adds up, and makes people start price shopping and looking around going like, ‘okay, well, maybe I’m not going to get that today,'” Quinscy said.

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