Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the recent report released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) concerning new low risk drinking guidelines. In a nutshell, the report recommends Canadians reduce alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per week. Risk of a range of conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer, they say, is low at 2 drinks per week, moderate at between 3 and 6, and increasingly high above 6. This is a dramatic change from the current cap of 15 drinks per week for men and 10 for women. 

What does this mean for Canadians and our industry?

First, the CCBA remains committed to promoting moderation, responsible consumption and a diverse, equitable and inclusive craft brewing industry. Our craft beer sector has always focused on mindful consumption, in the way we price and promote our products, and the way we train our servers and run our taprooms. Our passion is for producing quality products over quantity. That commitment does not change.

What could change are the policies, rules and regulations governing our industry. Today, the CCSA is calling for new “standard drinks” labels, but where does it end? In ten or fifteen years, will we look back to 2023 as a tipping point of where additional restrictions began chipping away at where, when, and how alcohol can be packaged, sold, and served in Canada?

We need facts to broaden our understanding and inform sound public policy.

Of the 6,000 peer-reviewed studies the CCSA report guidelines are claimed to be based on, only 16 systematic studies were used in mathematical modelling. As Brock University professor Dan Malleck put it in the Globe and Mail, “the CCSA is basing its recommendation on a relatively narrow understanding of how alcohol functions.”

There is still time to get it right.

In spite of recent headlines, the new, recommended lower drinking guidelines are not a done deal. That is why we are reaching out to Health Canada to get insight into their response to the CCSA report and any timelines for addressing the recommendations in the report.

In partnership with Canadian brewers of all sizes, we are also continuing to ask Health Canada for a missing critical step be conducted, an expert technical peer review. We also urge the “standard drinks” labelling recommendation be rejected as unnecessary and proven ineffective in changing consumer behaviour.

Speaking of labelling requirements, we are also closely monitoring a separate but related effort: Senator Patrick Brazeau’s private Member’s Bill S-254. Now at second reading in the Senate, the Bill is seeking to amend the Food and Drugs Act to mandate warning labels on all beverage alcohol. 

Meanwhile, on another important advocacy front, we are working hard to prepare our craft beer industry’s federal pre-budget submission, due February 10. Based on the findings of an MNP study, the submission is providing justification for excise reform. We are building a case for giving our smaller craft brewers the biggest excise relief and staging additional savings in new and higher HL volume tax brackets to help drive job growth and capital investment. But first, the government needs to open discussions on excise reform. When this happens, there’ll be lots of opportunity to provide additional input and number-crunching.

It’s been a busy couple of months. 

We’re also getting ready to kick off Canada Beer Cup 2023 and am pleased to announce that Hilary Hoogsteen, who some of you may know as the CCBA’s Marketing and Communications Manager, will be taking on additional responsibility as Competition Manager. With her leadership and attention to detail, we are in very good hands. 

I also want to thank the CCBA executive committee and board members for their guidance, leadership, and support in advancing these important advocacy efforts. Their input is invaluable.

I’m looking forward to continuing to work collaboratively with my board and industry partners to strengthen our craft beer sector and enhance all the positive social, cultural, and economic benefits we responsibly bring to local communities across our nation.

Cheers to beers,

Christine

Executive Director, Canadian Craft Brewers Association