NEWS

Quebec winemakers feel shafted by SAQ subsidy letdown

10/28/2014 08:18 EDT | Updated 12/28/2014 05:59 EST
Quebec winemakers who struck a deal with the previous provincial government to sell their bottles at a loss to the SAQ on the promise of receiving a subsidy later say they have been left hanging.

Yvan Quirion, a winemaker at Vignoble Domaine St-Jacques — about 40 minutes south of Montreal — told CBC Daybreak on Tuesday that a subsidy promised by the Parti Québécois in 2013 hasn’t been fulfilled since Philippe Couillard’s Liberals took office.

In 2013, Pauline Marois’s government announced a plan to promote Quebec-made wines.

Last November, the government said it would award $4.3 million in grants over the next three years for qualified local wine producers. The money was intended to help them attain quality standards the SAQ requires for its suppliers.

It offered a subsidy of sorts of between $4 and $5 a bottle to winemakers so that homegrown vintners could compete with the heavily subsidized European wine market.

In turn, the SAQ began its “Origine Québec” promotion campaign to draw attention to locally made wines. And it worked — in recent months, locally made wine saw a 60 per cent increase in sales.

But Quirion and other winemakers say the government hasn’t held up its end of the bargain.

Though cheques were due to be sent out in July, winemakers said they have yet to see a dime from the deal.

Wineries out $100K apiece

“All the producers who sell to the SAQ are currently waiting for a sizable return. We’re easily talking about $100,000 per business,” Charles-Henri de Coussergues, president of the Quebec Vintners Association, told Radio-Canada.

Winery owners invested in the deal, taking out bank loans, cutting back on business with restaurants and boutiques and sinking capital and human resources into the project, according to de Coussergues.

Both the finance and agriculture ministries were involved in the agreement, and yet they each referred CBC Daybreak to the other when contacted for an interview.

CBC Daybreak eventually spoke to Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis’s cabinet director, Valérie Roy.

She said the ministry is aware of the program and the current situation winemakers are in, but the department is currently waiting on the finance ministry to give them the money.

Quebec wines will be showcased by the SAQ at the Quebec Wine Festival Nov. 28-30.

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