Many People may have complained about the lack of details in Doug Ford’s campaign platform; however, one thing is certain, Doug Ford is planning to keep his promises. One of the key promises of his election campaign, “buck-a-beer” will be kept starting August 27 just before Labour Day weekend. The plan is to lower the minimum price of a can or a bottle of beer with an alcohol volume below 5.6 percent to $1 from $1.25. The announcement was made this week, conveniently before Civic Holiday weekend when Premier Ford didn’t forget to wish everyone a “responsible” long weekend “with your beverage of choice”. Being responsible does not always go hand in hand with alcohol. A spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) who fear cheaper beer sends the wrong message, stated that “increased consumption can in turn lead to increase alcohol related problems, including impaired driving.”
Of course, the buck-a-beer approach is not new to Ontario. In 2008, the Liberal government scraped it to increase the minimum price claiming “social responsibility”. With the costs of making beer going up and an increase in the provincial and federal taxes, brewers could not afford to sell their product at the minimum price.
A few questions sprung to mind as I heard the news. Is a 25-cent reduction significant to beer aficionados? How is it even possible to produce good quality beer at a cheaper cost? Why show so much care for consumers’ pockets and none for the brewers who will have to somehow lower production costs while still keeping the potion potable? Premier Ford claims that “for too long beer consumers have been forced to pay inflated prices for beer in order to increase the profits of big corporations. We’re going to allow price competition for beer and this will save consumers money.” He also claims that buck-a-beer will increase the competition in the beer market. Maybe the program will appeal to those brewers that are willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of more sales. Whereas small brewers have already stated that they will not embrace the plan as too costly, large companies will benefit from the program as with a wide range of products they will be able to make a cheaper one at the minimum price and still make a bit of profit.
The Government has stated that this initiative will not cost taxpayers anything; it is all on the brewers’ shoulders to carry the weight of the price reduction. The plan is totally voluntary and to participating brewers, the Ontario government will offer “non-financial incentives” such as prime spots in LCBO stores, free ads in flyers and magazine among the rewards. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park, said that these incentives will come at a cost to the province as these LCBO promotions “have monetary value”.
What’s more, the buck-a-beer benefit to the people sits in stark contrast with the news of the scraping of the basic income project. Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod stated that it is too expensive. The basic income pilot started in 2017 and was being tested over a period of three years to help make a difference in the lives of people on low income. Unlike the buck-a-beer plan, the promise that Ford made to support people on basic incomes is not being kept.