The minister responsible for B.C.'s liquor policy is defending a new tax break for a major Liberal party donor as a good way to protect jobs in the province's growing brewing industry.
Minister Rich Coleman says without the tax break, Pacific Western Brewing will go out of business this weekend. That's because the Prince George brewery is increasing its capacity, which launches it into a higher tax bracket.
According to reports, the tax break came to light when the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch sent out a memo to the industry outlining the coming changes for breweries
But the National Brewers Association then accused Coleman of doing a favour for a political friend, noting Pacific Western Brewing was a major donor to the Liberals and to Coleman's own re-election campaign.
The association said that allowing the B.C. company to increase production without increasing the tax rate was essentially offering an unfair advantage to what is becoming a direct competitor.
But Coleman says the new tax policy, which he plans to unveil Thursday, will raise taxes paid by growing brewers like Pacific Brewing without putting the Prince George company out of business.
"The national brewers have been pretty aggressive on this. They don't like the fact that we are trying to find a solution because I think quite frankly they would like to keep our small brewing industry down. These are mega companies that are not run in Canada anymore," said Coleman.
He also points out the National Brewers Association is also a big donor to him and his party.
"I think the public should take away that I am more concerned about 300 people having their job in Prince George next week, and not being laid off than anything else."
NDP critic Maurine Karagianis says the government is once again flying by the seat of its pants when it comes to liquor rules.
"When you see the government making these kind of spontaneous policy decisions and then having to backtrack, that means that they're not consulting with the public and they're not consulting with the industry and they're therefore not making good decisions," Karagianis said Wednesday.
Karagianis says what's needed is a complete overhaul of the province's outdated liquor regulations.