TORONTO, ON & VICTORIA, BC – Hot on the heels of a scathing Globe & Mail article calling Ontario’s The Beer Store chain “dated,” “stale,” and “an anachronism,” information has come forth suggesting that the chain’s co-owners – the multinational Molson Coors, Labatt and Sleeman, a.k.a. Canada’s three largest brewers – have been funnelling donations to political parties in British Columbia through the company, as well as their co-owned lobby group Canada’s National Brewers.
As reported yesterday on VanEastBeer Blog, an online database of donations to BC political parties in the last several years contains a large number of donations to the BC Liberal Party, as well as a smaller number to the BC NDP, that originated from the Beer Store and the lobby group.
In total, over 100 donations totalling over $150,000 were made to the BC Liberals under the names “The Beer Store,” its alternate name “Brewers Retail,” and several variations on “Canadian National Brewers” from 2005 to the present. During the same time, just over $7,000 was donated to the BC NDP via 4 donations.
(It’s worth noting that the breweries all made donations under their own corporate names as well: over $60,000 to the Liberals and $1,000 to the NDP from Molson Coors; almost $65,000 to the Liberals from Labatt; and over $8,600 to the Liberals from Sleeman.)
While the Beer Store donations are not illegal, the original blog post suggests that it still seems strange for an Ontario-based company to be making such large donations to BC political parties, even if the likely purpose can be derived by reading between the lines:
Now I am not insinuating that these political contributions to the BC Liberals are greasing the wheels for the big breweries to maintain the status quo and keep the prime real estate in the government run liquor stores, but it certainly isn’t hurting.
Maybe The Beer Store chain were just in need of tax write-offs and they really dig what our BC Liberals are all about? Who knows, but the cynic in me has me thinking that there is some other motivation for these gratuitous political contributions, namely, maintaining the system as it is.
All of this comes at a time when craft beer sales in British Columbia are the strongest in Canada, with sales approaching 15% of the market, versus 10% or less in most other provinces, making it a prime spot for the larger brewers to do what they can to shore up their own market share.