Mr. Speaker, before I begin I just want to extend a warm welcome to you and to all my colleagues in the House. I hope we all had a restful and productive summer. It is great to see everyone again. Also, I want to wish a warm welcome to this year's new crop of pages. I know they are going to do a great job for us, and we are looking forward to working with them.
I would like to thank the member for Huron—Bruce for bringing forward the bill. I am proud to be speaking in support of it, because I believe that actions like this that help the small craft distillers across Canada, and one in particular in my riding, are going to be very beneficial.
Bill C-232 amends section 122 of the Excise Act, 2001. Its main purpose is to reduce the duty on spirits that are produced in Canada. That is an important thing to underline, because we have heard a lot from the opposite benches about how this is all about trade, as well as some misdirections in the debate. This bill is primarily about helping small craft distilleries, ones that do not really have a market outside of Canada. In a very competitive market, these distilleries need some help from the federal government.
The excise tax, as it is currently written, establishes a duty rate for the absolute ethyl alcohol contained in spirits. Its current rate is $11.69. Bill C-232 is going to see the first 100,000 litres of absolute ethyl alcohol reduced to a duty of $6 per litre, and any production over that will be reduced by a small amount to $11 per litre.
This is a good way to go. I have reviewed the debates from the first hour on the bill, and I just listened to the member for Winnipeg North. Frankly speaking, I cannot really understand why the Liberals seem to be going the way they are with the bill. I have listened to them reasoning the fact that they brought in the Canada child benefit, that the middle income tax bracket has been reduced, and that it might be in conflict with WTO rules and such.
However, hoping that Canadians are going to be spending their child benefits and tax breaks on Canadian spirits is hardly the way to give our hard-working small batch distillers the support they need to thrive. I know that as a father of young kids, with regard to the extra money I get for my children, my immediate thought is not that I am going to go to a liquor store and spend it on a bottle of gin.
There is also the fact that the Liberals have a little bit of a mixed history in this 42nd Parliament about supporting small businesses. They came to the House with a promise to reduce the rate to 9%, and then they broke that promise. I would have thought that a measure like this would be something that they would latch onto, to show small businesses that they did break one promise but they are willing to listen to industry experts and introduce a helping hand.
My party acknowledges the large contribution that small and medium-sized businesses provide to job creation in Canada. In Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, we have some fantastic entrepreneurs. These people put in very long hours. They often pay themselves a very small salary as they are giving their all to their businesses.
With craft distillers, it really is an art and a science all in one. They put a ton of effort into what they do to make an exceptional product. They have to make an exceptional product, because it is a very competitive industry and they do not have access to the amounts of capital that the big players in the market already have.
I do not agree with all aspects of the bill, but I certainly agree with the part that reduces the duty on the first 100,000 litres. To my friends across the way in the Liberal Party, instead of arguing about things that we have not had much discussion on, we should at least take the time to pass the bill at second reading and send it to committee so that we can call forward industry experts and regulatory experts to get an honest view of what the bill's impacts will be.
I do not believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We should give the bill a chance at committee and see if it is going to do the things it says it will.
The government has stated that one of its goals is job creation and it has acknowledged that around 80% of the jobs in Canada come from small and medium-sized enterprises, so if we give our craft distillers a helping hand, reducing the duty on what they pay for their spirts, that is going to be a great thing.
I want to segue and highlight one distiller in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I have an award-winning distillery called Ampersand Distilling Company, which makes an award-winning gin and has moved on to vodka. Ampersand's market is Vancouver Island. It does not export beyond that. Some parts of the Lower Mainland are lucky enough to get its products, but it is not a big player. So far the duty is the same for all quantities of spirits produced. Ampersand does not come close to what big players like Seagram can produce. Even reaching 100,000 litres would be a dream come true for it.
That is just one example. I know that many MPs in the House are lucky to represent small craft distillers. If they are going to vote against the bill, I hope distillers in their ridings have very frank discussions with them about their reasons, because the bill does deserve a second look at committee.
Ampersand Distilling Company is a family-founded craft distillery. It is on a five-acre organic farm and is run by a father, son, wife, and a couple of employees. Giving them a hand-up would not only expand the beautiful product they make, but already the Cowichan Valley is getting a name for itself for producing amazing wines and if we can add craft spirits, that will be a big draw to tourism dollars.
We have been taking a narrow view. We have to look at the spin-off effects, the boost to tourism, and so on. It is already a difficult industry. It is a highly competitive market. Every litre of alcohol produced has to go through rigorous standards and be recorded and labelled. There have to be reports. Sometimes people from the Canada Revenue Agency pop in for snap inspections. It is a heavy burden. Some of these regulations are necessary, but we can ease the burden because larger businesses are able to bear regulatory burden much easier than small businesses. It is about giving these small businesses a leg-up.
Between 2004-12, statistics show the sale of goods manufactured by the Canadian distilling industry decreased by 2.4%. It went from $762.3 million to $744.2 million. During that time the import of spirits had an average annual growth rate of 6.6%, so our share of the domestic market has been shrinking. We have had a lot more imports coming in and our hard-working men and women in the craft distilling industry have to compete that much harder for a smaller slice of the market. As a result, imports represented a greater portion of the domestic market. They increased to 80% in 2012 compared to 74% in 2004.
The Association of Canadian Distillers did a lot of work on this issue and has recommended that the excise tax on the first 100,000 litres of absolute ethyl alcohol be reduced. That is something that I can agree with and I would love to hear more about if the bill is sent to committee.
For all the reasons I just mentioned, the bill needs to be sent to committee, but we can sometimes get lost in the rhetoric. The passage of the bill would certainly raise the spirits of our craft distillers and provide the industry with a great shot in the arm. I hope MPs will support the bill and raise a toast to the hard-working men and women and the great dedication they have to their craft.