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County supports putting Ontario wines first in provincial changes to alcohol sector

Rob Peck, winery owner and local director with the Grape Growers of Ontario, asked for council’s support of the local grape, wine and beer industry as it faces changes related to the Ford government’s modernization of rules impacting the alcohol sector in the province.

The Ford government has invited public consultation online until Feb. 1 on plans to expand retail sales of alcohol to corner, grocery and big-box stores among other rules including sales from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

Peck told council Tuesday night, that the wine industry in the County has flourished – to 45 growers at nearly 40 wineries.

“By 2007 the County was producing enough grapes and wine to become a Designated Viticultural Area under Ontario legislation. By 2010, the County was producing enough grapes that we were given a seat on the Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO) board of directors.”

Peck noted the GGO represents all of Ontario’s 500 farm families that grow processing grapes – that includes 180 wineries.

“Ontario is the largest grape-growing province in Canada. We produced 85,000 tons of grapes in 2017, compared to the 33,000 tons grown in British Columbia,” he stated, adding the Ontario grape and wine industry creates 18,000 jobs and contributes $4.4 billion annually to economic impact.

The GGO, he said, has been advocating for a balanced approach to mitigate unintended consequences that could undermine the contribution of a strong grape and farming community. “Basically, the need to put Ontario first,” said Peck.

GGO wants any new retail sales outlets to include a policy that ensures growth of Ontario wines. It seeks a change to stop Ontario wines from being taxed the same as foreign producers.

“We’re not looking for a hand-out, but equitable treatment for Ontario wines as a domestic product,” he said, adding a balanced tax plan should also remove the 6.1 per cent additional tax that gets levied on wines and ciders at the farmgate.

The GGO would also like a transition of internationally Canadian blended (ICB) wines into 100 per cent Ontario and VQA wines. “Currently ICB wines contain a minimum 25 per cent Ontario grapes and up to 75 per cent imported wine. We would like to see transition to phase ICB wines into 100 per cent Ontario wines.”

These elements, he said, will create a ‘made in Ontario’ viticultural policy that supports continued growth of Ontario’s grape and wine industry, tourism and local economic development.

Council supported a resolution to that effect acknowledging an important and unique grape and wine industry in the County, and an emerging craft beer industry, creating jobs and investment in the municipality.

The municipality will submit its resolution to the provincial government, MPP Todd Smith, and has asked County staff to report back on how the municipality can increase its support of 100 per cent County produced wines and craft beer within the municipality.

Filed Under: Local News

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