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Alberta loses beer battle in Appeal Court, but won't have to repay brewers

Alberta's top court is dismissing the province's appeal of a ruling that disallowed a program intended to promote sales of local craft beers. People pour beers from a keg of specially brewed beer during the opening day of The Bavarian Festival at Harvey Kern Pavilion in Frankenmuth, Mich., Thursday, June 11, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-The Saginaw News, David C. Bristow

EDMONTON — Alberta’s top court is dismissing the province’s appeal of a ruling that disallowed a program intended to promote sales of local craft beers.

But the Court of Appeal tossed out an earlier judgment that granted two out-of-province brewers more than $2 million in damages.

The three appeal judges were unanimous in saying that the plan under the previous NDP government to charge the same mark-ups for all brewers but offer a grant to local ones violated the Constitution.

They say it’s clear the program was intended to restrict trade between provinces.

However, they add that the restitution the government was ordered to pay to Steam Whistle Brewing and Great Western Brewing was invalid.

The ruling says restitution must only be paid for unjust taxes, and the extra costs imposed on the brewers were not taxes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2019.

The Canadian Press