Alberta's subsidy plan to boost its own craft beer industry has been hammered again by a trade panel ruling.
An appeal panel under the Agreement on Internal Trade has upheld an earlier decision that provincial grants to assist Alberta craft brewers are unfair and violate interprovincial free trade rules.
"By tying the grant explicitly to certain levels of production and sales of beer produced in Alberta, the (grant) program encourages the production and sale of Alberta beer and provides a competitive advantage ... over beer produced in other provinces," wrote the appeal panel.
All brewers in Alberta pay the same $1.25 tax per litre on beer, but in 2016 Finance Minister Joe Ceci introduced grants in 2016 to help small Alberta producers expand their businesses.
Calgary-based Artisan Ales, which sells imported beer, filed a complaint with the internal trade panel, saying the grants effectively tilted the playing field against those who bring in beer from outside.
An original hearing panel found the tax and grant program constituted unfair trade while the appeal panel said the tax was fine but agreed the grant program was still offside under free trade rules.
Artisan Ales owner Mike Tessier said the program has severely undercut his business but said the panel ruling is a victory for common sense.