Brewing Debate in Nova Scotia

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The Nova Scotia Supreme Court heard arguments from Unfiltered Brewing Company’s lawyers this past week. The Halifax craft brewer argues that the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation’s (NSLC) Retail Sales Mark-up Allocation (RSMA) is unconstitutional because it’s a tax, and the corporation doesn’t have the legal authority from the province to charge taxes.

The ‘tax’ in dispute is a 50-cent per litre fee charged to craft brewers who sell, sample or give away their beer outside of NSLC locations, including at bars or restaurants.C raft brewers are charged twice as much as craft distillers and wineries in Nova Scotia. Unfiltered Brewing, in operation since 2015, has forked over $35,000 in RSMA payments to the NSLC. They want to recoup their losses and have the RSMA declared invalid because of its alleged unconstitutionality.

NSLC’s lawyers argued it is not actually a tax, but rather is a “proprietary levy or regulatory fee” paid by Unfiltered Brewing for the privilege of selling its beer at its own storefront. They argue that the brewery’s permits for manufacturing and selling beer include an agreement to pay the RSMA. For this reason, they purport that it is not a tax, but is instead a fee.

Justice Glen McDougall is expected to make a decision within 6 months

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.