It should come as no surprise that one of the first promises fulfilled by Ontario Premier Doug Ford was the announcement of “Buck-a-beer”. It was an easy, and empty, promise to fulfill designed to show that his government is doing something.
Actions like this have been seen many times before. A populist leader delivers a very minor election promise and then makes sure we all know about it. It tends to obscure the fact that more vital promises may have been quietly placed on hold. And there is a flaw with Ford’s Buck-a-Beer promise, quite aside from the jingoism.
Lowering the minimum price of beer from $1.25 per bottle, to $1.00, will not make beer cheaper for Ontarians.
Except for the largest breweries in Ontario, Labatt, Molson and Saporro, it will still cost more than $1.00 per bottle to produce beer.
All Ford is doing is saying that it is okay for businesses to sell their product at a loss. It is not good business to sell products at a loss.
Ford does not appear serious about helping Ontarian’ pocketbooks. If he truly wanted us to be able to afford a few extra luxuries, he would tackle the taxes businesses in Ontario pay. In addition, he would advocate for the dropping of interprovincial trade barriers. We may have free trade between Canada, the United States and Mexico, but we don’t between Ontario and Quebec.
After Ford’s gleeful announcement of “Buck-a-beer”, it will still less expensive to buy a case of beer in Quebec even after the new price takes effect. The Quebec government simply taxes beer at a lower rate. But do not get caught buying beer in Quebec and bringing it back to Ontario. Interprovincial trade barriers prevent that. Recently a man from New Brunwick lost his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada after being convicted for bringing beer across the border from Quebec.
The low-hanging fruit of fulfilling empty promises is easy to do.
It is simple to say that the government is lowering a price, at the same time ensuring government taxation makes it difficult for companies to actually carry out the reduction. The whole buck-a-beer promise is coming across as a cheap political gimmick.
Ford should tackle the real issues of taxation and interprovincial trade barriers if he wants to help Ontario businesses be more competitive, and to enable more Ontarians to buy goods.