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You won't be buying this local beer for $1, says company president

Mike Schreiner says the whole 'buck-a-beer' thing is just a diversion anyway
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Guelph's Wellington Brewery's president says the company will not lower the price of its beer to $1 because the current pricing allows it to pay employees a living wage and for it to support community initiatives, like the Rotary International Local Lager in support of Rotary in Guelph and Peterborough seen in this GuelphToday file photo.

The president of Guelph-based Wellington Brewery says it will not be pursuing Premier Doug Ford's 'buck-a-beer' incentives.

"We believe in providing a product that is brewed the right way, in small batches using the highest-quality ingredients and offering those products at a fair price," said company president Brent Davies in an email to GuelphToday. 

Ontario launched its buck-a-beer plan Tuesday by offering "non-financial incentives" to brewers who sell their beer for $1, prompting critics to question the Progressive Conservative government's priorities and accuse the province of trying to deflect scrutiny on key issues such as education and the environment. 

Premier Doug Ford said participating businesses will be offered prime spots in Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores, or advertising in flyers or inserts, among other possible rewards.

The Progressive Conservative plan will lower the minimum price of a bottle or can of beer with an alcohol volume below 5.6 per cent to $1 from $1.25 starting Aug. 27 — a few days before the Labour Day weekend.

Brewers would not be required to charge less, however, and the lower minimum price would not apply to draft beer, nor would it include the bottle deposit.

Wellington Brewery's current pricing allows the company to give back to the local community, said Davies.

"We advocate for policies that support craft brewers by making our products more accessible and affordable in a sustainable way. We do not believe this initiative achieves that aim," said Davies. "We will continue to engage with the Ontario government and our industry friends, and move forward offering beers in keeping with the quality and standards our customers and employees have come to expect."

The Tories have said a return to buck a beer would see more competition in the beer market without affecting the province's revenues from beer and wine taxes, which government documents show brought in roughly $589 million in 2016-2017.

The Green Party of Ontario said the beer program is an attempt to draw attention away from the government's controversial decisions to revoke the updated sex-ed curriculum, scrap the basic income project and dismantle the cap-and-trade carbon pricing system.

"After spending weeks ripping up contracts and curriculums, dismantling climate plans and pilot projects, this is the first time the premier has actually given us something. But instead of a climate plan or help for people living in poverty, it's a cheap beer challenge," said Mike Schreiner, Green Party leader and Guelph MPP in a statement. "Is this the premier's priority? Does he think reducing the beer price floor from $1.25 to $1 will solve real problems?"

Wellington Brewery is involved in a number of charitable and community initiatives, including the creation of one-off brews in support of causes like Guelph Pride, the Rotary Club of Guelph and Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis through the Queen of Craft event. Proceeds from those sales go back into the community.

"That allows us to provide our team a living wage and give back to our local community," said Davies.

GuelphToday reached out to Royal City Brewing and Brothers Brewing Co. on Wednesday but did not receive a response from either company by press time.

—with files from The Canadian Press