In some ways, Doug Ford’s buck-a-beer is kind of like unicorns or Bigfoot. There are those who swear it exists in the wild, but most of us have never seen one and we’re pretty sure that those other people might be crazy.

And if those other people want to prove to the rest of us that they’re not crazy, well, they’ve got an uphill climb ahead of them, I’m afraid. For it seems that, as with most things Doug Ford claims he’s going to do, the opposite thing is what actually happens.

Why did Buck-A-Beer make some beer more expensive?
When they tried bringing in Buck-A-Beer there was a concept attached to the beer market in Ontario — a minimum price floor and the minimum price floor had an annual escalator. It was basically a formula that kept up with the Consumer Price Index and it made sure that the minimum price for beer would increase year-over-year by a small percentage.
It turns out that in order to make Buck-A-Beer feasible you had to remove that escalator which means that breweries are now just able to charge whatever they’d like to and when the large brewers are given the option between making more money and charging less, they always choose making more money.
Despite the emergence of the craft beer industry do the large brewers still control most of the market?
Yes. They’re probably looking at something like 60 per cent of the volume in the province. I think if you look at Moosehead and Brick, who are their largest competitors, that’s probably 10 per cent of the market. And then there are 10 per cent imports. And I think craft beer is edging upwards towards 20 per cent.
Are we seeing the price hike largely confined to the major brewers?
This is the amazing thing. When you’re talking about minimum pricing you’re talking about value brands which are usually at the beer store. The price index I work with is, basically, the price of 24 bottles. In January 2018 that would have been $34.50. As of this winter it’s now $37.95. So, it’s a 10 per cent increase and the same one for premium brands as well.

That is considerable especially for people who thought they were getting a deal when Buck-A-Beer was promised.
Yes. Buck-A-Beer lasted very briefly and I think it was sometimes available on long weekends but that was about it. It’s always a question of getting what you pay for.

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