Only Ontario imposes a 6.1 per cent tax on wine sales at vintners’ retail stores and winery proprietor Bill Redelmeier can’t understand why the levy even exists.
Redelmeier, from Southbrook Vineyards, and Jakub Lipinski, of Big Head Wines, joined Niagara MPP Wayne Gates last week to unveil plans to reintroduce a private member’s bill that will end the “unfair” tax on 100 per cent Ontario VQA wine sold at winery retail stores.
“What nobody can really figure out is why only Ontario wines are charged a 6.1 per cent tax on sales through our own retail store,” Redelmeier said at a news conference hosted by Gates last Thursday,
The New Democrat MPP added, “This tax only serves to harm our Ontario wines and creates an unfair advantage to foreign winemakers.”
Redelmeier noted many small wineries are not profitable and Lipinski said that because the last few years have been challenging, it would be helpful to receive some support from the government.
“Anytime I go to Toronto restaurants and try to sell our wine, they always compare us to other regions throughout the world,” Lipinski said.
“It’s hard when you have to explain to every single sommelier, every single table that 65 per cent of that price that you see there is taxes,” he added.
Ontario wineries have not only been overlooked, but outright ignored for too long, Gates said, adding that Niagara wineries are on board with his bill.
“There’s nobody saying, ‘No, don’t take this bill forward,’ ” Gates told The Lake Report.
He introduced similar bills in 2018 and 2020. Both didn’t make it past the first reading.
As part of an campaign to get rid of the tax, a Deloitte Canada report earlier this year laid out the benefits of Ontario’s wine industry.
Commissioned by Ontario Craft Wineries, Tourism Partnership of Niagara and Wine Growers Ontario, it concluded the industry could boost Niagara region’s gross domestic product by $8 billion over the next 25 years.
“One of the things that they highlight in that report was the 6.1 per cent unfair tax that small- and medium-sized wineries are paying, where foreign wineries do not pay that tax,” said Gates.
“Which makes absolutely no sense,” he added.
The report could be the catalyst the industry needs to get the tax repealed, he said.
“I think there’s a lot more pressure on the government right now to take a serious look at this unfair tax,” said Gates.
He said the report was “very important for highlighting and educating a lot of people on how important and unique the role of the wine industry plays in the Niagara economy.”
Niagara produces 90 per cent of all Ontario grapes, he said, and the wine sector provides upward of 23,000 jobs.
Naigara’s wine industry is also the largest in Canada.
Andrea Kaiser, Naigara-on-the-Lake’s regional councillor – and a winemaker – said removing the 6.1 per cent tax would make a huge difference to the industry and have it “explode in a positive way.”
In July, Kaiser succeeding in getting Niagara regional council to unanimously support a motion to put more pressure on the government to lift the tax.
Kaiser also encouraged people and businesses to buy more VQA wines. “That would be tremendous,” she said.
She’d love to see the industry better supported in Ontario, much like it is in British Columbia.
“When you support the wineries, you support the growers, because then they can afford to buy the fruit and reinvest in the land, and buy grapes,” Kaiser said.