moved that Bill C-232, An Act to amend the Excise Act, 2001 (spirits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on private member's Bill C-232, an act to amend the Excise Act, 2001, regarding spirits.
I though it would be appropriate to start my speech by declaring that I have no pecuniary interests. I do not own a distillery. I have no plans to own a distillery. I own no common shares in any distillery stocks, so I just do this purely for the sector, for the industry, and for the spinoff benefits it would have for Canadian businesses.
The current lay of the land for excise taxes on spirits in this country is $11.696 per litre of 100% ethyl alcohol. This rate has been in place for many years without any consideration having been given by government to reduce it. I propose at this time that it is time to reduce it in two different ways.
There are many categories, and it depends on which interpretation we take of a small or medium-size distiller, but regardless of that, this measure would apply to all distilleries that operate in this country. It would reduce the excise tax to $6 per litre of 100% ethyl alcohol, and on over 100,000 litres we would reduce it by nearly 79¢ to bring it to an even $11. This is a good move, I believe, and would be beneficial to the sector.
To put it in perspective and to give an idea of what taxes are involved in just a glass of wine, a glass of beer, or a glass of alcohol, in Ontario, for example, with regard to wine, 80% goes back to the distiller or the chain, 4.3% is federal tax, and 15% is provincial tax. For beer, 46% goes back to the industry or the supplier, 11% goes to the federal government in the form of taxes, and nearly 30% goes to the provincial government. Anyone who knows Ontario knows the Beer Store, and its cut is a little over 12%.
However, the difference is significant in the case of distilleries. The issue is that almost 60% goes to the provincial government, over 17% goes to the federal government, and just a little over 23% is returned back to the industry. If we compare the 80% for wine with the 23% for the spirits and distilling sector, we see a big difference. The bill will not close the gap 100%, but it will make a small step forward in trying to level the field and allow more profitability into the sector.
I know all members want to see businesses grow, whether they are small or large. The one thing we do not want to do as legislators is have a tax regime in place that dissuades businesses from setting up and making investments in this country. With the excise tax where it is currently, we have really not seen much growth at all in the sector in regard to new starts. We are hoping that this measure will be a first step.
One question I think everyone in the House should ask regarding the bill is whether it will be WTO compliant and whether there is a chance that a different country or a different jurisdiction will provide a challenge. We feel quite secure and confident that this will not be challengeable at the WTO, because it applies to all distillers. That is very important. It benefits the entire sector, so that is very good.
The other question I would think all members of Parliament would have is the cost. How much is it going to cost? I mentioned how much we are going to reduce the excise taxes, and the example I can give is an example from the U.K. It reduced the excise tax last year, in 2015, by 2%. In January of this year, the Scotch Whisky Association said that it had nearly £100 million to the positive for government revenues.
The idea that a tax reduction can only cost government I think in this case is incorrect. We have good, solid evidence, recent examples that would indicate that a modest excise tax reduction would actually increase revenues to the government.
I would also like to point out that, just in volume increases and other increases that go along with business, from 2006 to 2015, the excise tax collected on spirits actually increased $200 million. We have seen volume increase, and that is great, but there are huge opportunities for this sector.
If we compare the U.S. to Canada and the taxation involved, 54% of the price in the United States goes to federal, state, and local taxes, and it is nearly 80% of the price here in Canada. We need to continue to be more competitive to compete in America and around the globe.
Another unique difference between bourbon in the United States and Canadian whisky is that bourbon needs to be aged for only a year and Canadian whisky needs to be aged for three years. I would think that around the world, Canadian whisky is viewed as a premium product, but there is a premium amount needed and required to be warehoused, so we also need to be mindful of that.
If we look at the broader market, this is a very significant market worldwide. This is an $8-billion a year market worldwide. Canada has a pretty good chunk of that market. We are in at around $700 million, but we have huge potential and opportunity to actually reach about $2 billion of that market. We could potentially play around 20% to 25% of the market. One of the big reasons is that so many of our brands that we know here are really recognized around the world.
Spirits in this country represent $5.8 billion to Canada's GDP, and represent over 1,200 jobs directly, almost 9,000 in total. It is a huge employer. We can just imagine from the crop in the field to the bottle on the shelf all the different hands and businesses that would be involved to get to that number in this country.
I would also like to mention about the market, just to put in another comparable, that there are 60 to 70 distilleries in this country. There are about five or six significantly large distilleries and a few micro or small distilleries. However, looking at one small sector, there are over 800 small craft distilleries in the United States. In my speech later on, I will reference the opportunity of niche markets with those as well.
The other thing I want to talk about is the large distilleries such as Gimli Distillery in Manitoba and there is a few in Ontario as well. They need to reinvest in their plant and machinery, and a 6% reduction in the excise tax would be very significant for them. It would allow them to invest in green technologies. Many of the plants have some form of green technologies already, closed water loops and many other pieces of their plant, but that would allow them to continue reinvesting in green technologies in the plants. In addition to that, there is bottling and packaging. It would allow them to be competitive on the world market to make sure we do not lose packaging and bottling contracts to the United States. We want to make sure that plants are able to do that.
In addition, I mentioned that Canadian whisky needs to be stored for three years. Therefore, we need storage and additional warehousing. If we are to grow the industry to $2 billion a year, we will need some significant investment in warehousing. We need the large companies in this country to be able to afford to make those investments here and to grow.
I would also like to mention that in addition to the plant and machinery, there is a significant amount of marketing that needs to take place, not only here domestically but around the world.
We have significant markets in China, Japan, obviously in the United States, the U.K., and many other countries around the world. We are competing in a global market which becomes more global each and every day. We need to continue to allow those large companies to make investments in their marketing.
Up until 2010, Canada had the number one whisky in the United States. We need to make sure that we do our very best to get back into that and become competitive.
I come from a rural riding. Farmers are going to benefit from this as well. There are 320,000 tonnes of rye, corn, etc., and in some cases even wheat that go into this industry. Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta are huge suppliers of grains. With rye, for example, distilleries are the number one consumer and purchaser of rye and a huge purchaser of Ontario corn as well.
One thing some people in the House may not know is that when a commodity such as rye or corn goes into a distillery, that is not the end of its life. After it has been fermented and distilled, it becomes distillers grains. At that point, they are in huge demand by beef farmers, dairy farmers, and pork producers. They use it in their feed ration. That is another green example of what the industry is and it also leads to some niche opportunities like the United States has.
There is a distillery in Florida. I have not visited it but I have read about it. They have a ranch and on the ranch they obviously feed their cattle. The grains that go into the distillery are kept and fed to the cattle right on the ranch.
There are huge opportunities down the road in the agriculture sector and for farmers to be able to grow the crops on their farms, to be able to potentially afford to have a distillery on their farms, similar to what many wineries and breweries do. It could increase tourism around the rest of the country as well.
It would also allow agriculture, science and technology, and industry to partner together to create new and innovative varieties of crops, specific ryes, different wheats, that would cater to their niche market. One example, which is on a much larger scale, is rye grown in Saskatchewan that Crown Royal used for its world award-winning Northern Harvest Rye. These are the kinds of partnerships and initiatives that can really spur growth and really help farmers and the industry.
In the few minutes that are left, I would like to thank my staff and the opposition leader's office for their help. I would like to thank the Library of Parliament for its help guiding us along the way, Jan Westcott at Spirits Canada, and of course Still Waters Distillery in Concord. Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein have been a tremendous help in providing information and input about the benefits to this industry.
The last thing I will say is about small craft distillers. This is the biggest opportunity this country has in this sector. It is untapped. It really could unleash with the changes that we are proposing here in literally every member of Parliament's riding around the country. Not every riding has a distillery, but it certainly does not matter if one is a government member of Parliament or in the opposition, there are distilleries in some members' ridings and with the opportunity for many more.
The problem is the way the current system is set up with the excise tax and the requirements from CRA in the warehousing, it is a huge impediment to opening up a new business. What we do not want to have in this country is taxation and regulation being the reasons that we do not open up new businesses.
In the province of Ontario where I live, the LCBO is starting its modernization project. It is going to be less of a burden and less of a barrier to these new businesses. It is also time for the federal government to be a proactive partner, take a first step, and take a look at this.
We want to get this thing done. We are open to suggestions and ideas from other members. If they have amendments, or if they would like to see changes or additions, this is not cast in stone. We are open to ideas. I look forward to questions.