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British Columbia's minister responsible for liquor policy has ruled out a quick decision on new tax measures for the province's breweries – an issue forced into the spotlight by a planned amendment that gave a significant tax break to a brewery that made an in-kind donation of nearly $27,000 to a fundraiser for the minister.

While Pacific Western Brewing Co. has ruled out shutting down its Prince George plant, workers there fear layoffs through to January if Rich Coleman decides against amendments to the province's tax policies. Breweries pay a markup to the province for the beer they produce.

Pacific Western Brewing had threatened to close its doors Friday unless it got changes that would allow it to expand its production, but the company said it was backing off that possibility.

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Neil Glazier, a millwright at the plant for 32 years and plant-committee chairman, said Thursday that his colleagues are all stressed over the situation, especially with Christmas looming.

"It's an uncertain future," he said. "It's just poor timing."

There are 48 workers at the plant, who are members of the Brewery, Winery and Distillery Workers Union, Local 300.

Expectations of a change in the policy came a week after the Liquor Distribution Branch informed industry stakeholders of an amendment that gave Pacific Western a significant tax break – one Mr. Coleman says was made in error.

The backtracking came after The Globe and Mail learned the brewery recently made an in-kind donation of nearly $27,000 to a findraiser for Mr. Coleman.

The NDP opposition is urging the Liberal government to delay any taxation changes that could yield millions of dollars in benefits to the brewery, owned by a Liberal supporter, Kazuko Komatsu.

The new rules amending mark-up policies announced Nov. 14 would allow a company like Pacific Western to make inroads into the market share of the province's larger breweries, which are taxed at a higher rate.

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Sources say the amount of tax the company would have to pay to increase its production from 160,000 to 200,000 hectolitres – a brewery measure – would be $35-million. Under the amendment announced earlier this month, the tax bill would be $25.5-million – or an annual savings of nearly $10-million, according to an industry insider.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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