A BIG win for our industry; Federal government caps alcohol excise tax at 2%!

Published mars 22, 2024

I was grateful to receive a call from Minister of Small Business, Rechie Valdez on Saturday morning informing me about the decision by the Federal government to maintain the alcohol excise tax at 2% for two years. Restaurants Canada has been advocating tirelessly for this decision to support the foodservice industry, and this news demonstrates that our concerns have been heard and are taken seriously.  This change came about through strong collaborative advocacy efforts between Restaurants Canada and a coalition of brewers, unions, consumers, farmers, and retailers. This decision is welcome by our members in Canadian cities and towns, big and small. Please see our full statement here.

Last Friday marked the celebration of International Women’s Day, embracing a powerful and unignorable theme for the year: “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.” This theme underscores a fundamental truth that has been overlooked for far too long: investing in women is not merely a delayed imperative; it is, in fact, the critical driving force—an ‘X factor’—that promises to catalyze the growth and evolution of global and local economies.

I want to acknowledge the challenges women have faced in being seen, heard, and elevated in our industry. I would also like to acknowledge that, despite these obstacles, so many women have demonstrated resilience, dedication and vision, making remarkable contributions that have shaped the future of our industry. Their ability to overcome barriers and lead with innovation and creativity has not only enriched our sector but has also paved the way for future generations of women to thrive and lead.

This year, the RC Show is proud to present several exciting highlights that underscore this point. For the first time in our history, we will be hosting an all-women CEO panel, providing a platform for some of the most influential women in our industry to share their insights, experiences, and strategies for success. This ground-breaking session promises to be an inspiring and enlightening experience for all attendees.

We are also thrilled to announce that Meeru Dhalwala, a renowned chef and restaurateur, will be gracing the RC Show Speaker Stage as the keynote. Meeru’s journey in both the culinary world and in global development is both courageous and humble, and her perspectives on leadership, culinary excellence, bringing women forward, and community engagement are sure to inspire and motivate us all.

Restaurants Canada will also host a special networking event with Let’s Talk Womxn in the RC Pop Up Experience at RC Show. Let’s Talk Womxn is an initiative started in Chicago by restaurateur Dr. Rohini Dey aimed at empowering and supporting women entrepreneurs, particularly in the food and beverage industry. Founded in response to the challenges faced by women-owned businesses, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Let’s Talk Womxn now has city-based Chapters across the U.S., with a new Chapter recently started in Toronto led by co-hosts Angela Lawrence of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group, Jacqueline Nicosia of ARDO Restaurant, Bar ARDO, DOVA, and VIVI Imports, Kate Taylor Martin of Nutbar, and Nicki Laborie of Reyna Hospitality Group.

Let’s Talk Womxn’s action-oriented credo aligns with Restaurants Canada’s commitment to promoting gender equality and supporting the advancement of women in our industry. Through collaborative efforts, we aim to create a more inclusive and equitable environment where women’s contributions are celebrated, and their potential is fully realized. An email with details on the Let’s Talk Womxn event and how to register will be sent to Restaurants Canada members soon.

The February 28th assembly of Restaurants Canada’s Board of Directors marked a day of collaboration, significant achievement and intellectual engagement as we delved into pivotal industry challenges. I extend my sincere gratitude to our remarkable leadership team for their dedication and adept guidance of the Association. Their investment of time and expertise has been indispensable in steering our course. You can read more about Restaurants Canada’s Government Relations Strategy presentation to the Board in Richard Alexander’s Government and Public Affairs Update below.


From Richard Alexander | Executive Vice-President, Government Relations & Public Affairs

Restaurants Canada: Government Relations Strategy

Restaurants Canada Board of Directors aligned with key strategic approaches presented at the February 28th meeting.

Last week I had the privilege of presenting Restaurants Canada’s Government Relations Strategy to the Board of Directors. This strategy was the result of several months of work by the Restaurants Canada Government Relations Team. In putting together this strategy, the team had to consider several factors.

  1. The industry needs relief on our issues now. We can’t wait two to three years for results. Our asks must be something achievable in the short to medium term.
  2. Our asks need to ensure we are addressing the root causes of the challenges faced by our industry.
  3. Our asks, if implemented, should attempt to help all members, regardless of the type.
  4. Are there other associations that have priorities where we can offer mutual support?
  5. What evidence can we present for the need and the solution we are proposing?
  6. What are the government’s priorities and what can we ask for that helps them meet those priorities?

Over the past several months we have been shopping our potential asks to bureaucrats and ministers in Ottawa and in every province. We have ended up with a list of asks that we believe, as best as possible, meet the considerations above and have a reasonable chance of success. 

Our advocacy efforts will fall into three buckets:

  1. Inflation relief (cost savings for operators)
  2. Labour Supply (immigration)
  3. Sustainability

Inflation relief:

Stopping a proposed 10% price increase in the price of chicken in BC

This issue has the potential to increase prices across the country. Restaurants Canada is currently running a campaign to push the BC government to intervene in the price setting process and protect our industry and consumers.

Stopping the planned 4.7% increase in the federal alcohol excise tax

Together with our partners at Beer Canada, we have been running a campaign to pressure the federal government to NOT do more damage to our industry by adding more costs. We are the first association to extend an advocacy campaign into Ottawa area restaurants.

Freeze EI and CPP premiums until inflation reaches the Bank of Canada target of 2% for a 12-month period.

By virtue of our industry being labour intensive, payroll taxes like EI and CPP disproportionately negatively impact our industry. A pause in EI and CPP increases will decrease costs for our industry and save restaurants. We will be working with other associations and campaigning over the coming months.

Labour Supply:

Implement the “Destination Employment Program” as a permanent program to provide a steady stream of labour for the hospitality industry.

This program ran as a pilot for three years with excellent results. It is designed to match new Canadians in need of employment with opportunities in our sector. RC has received positive feedback from the federal government surrounding this ask. If RC is successful in getting this program scaled up across the country, it would be the second step in getting a dedicated stream for our industry.

Sustainability

Over the next month we will finalize a “roadmap” that recognizes the excellent work already done by our industry, and steers the many municipal, provincial and federal sustainability regulations in a direction that assists the industry in its attempts to make further improvements.

Provincial Advocacy

Regional Vice Presidents have already been lobbying to relieve pressure on our industry and will continue to push for several issues at the provincial level. These areas include:

  1. Tax exemptions and thresholds – including employee health tax threshold increases, HST thresholds and refunds on credit card transaction fees.
  2. Training grants – financial assistance from government in the costs related to hiring new employees.   
  3. Liquor discounts – including wholesale and discount increases.
  4. Regional VPs will lobby provincial departments of immigration to lobby the federal government for permanent implementation of the destination employment program.

Our government relations team feels very confident that we have a plan that can achieve results for our industry in 2024. We are seeing good momentum and good responses from government so far, and even a few early successes. The key to our success this year will be maintaining focus on our priorities – our north stars. There is a lot of work ahead but with your support, we can make the business environment for our industry better than it is now.


From Maximilien Roy| Vice-President, Federal & Québec

Federal Alcohol Excise Tax Campaign:

Due to federal budget delivery delay, the RC GR team is doubling down on its urgent request to freeze the tax at 2% prior to April 1st.

Restaurants Canada, in partnership with our partners at Beer Canada, continue to push the federal government to freeze the federal alcohol tax at two per cent as they did last year. The tax is scheduled to increase by almost five per cent on April 1st. This item was supposed to be a budget item but the federal government’s decision to push the federal budget to April 16th means that the decision to freeze the tax will have to be made before April 1st. This is unfortunate. This tax will add another unnecessary burden to an already struggling industry. There is not a lot of time left to stop this tax increase and your RC GR team is not slowing down.

Our on-site campaign in Ottawa is drawing the attention of MPs with Pierre Poilievre and his team sharing Restaurants Canada data and supporting our call to stop the April 1st federal alcohol tax increase.

Restaurants Canada on-site tent cards

Our RC tent cards have been displayed in Ottawa area restaurants to catch MPs on their way home from the Hill. To our knowledge, this is the first time any association has been able to conduct such a campaign in Ottawa.

Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act:

First reports due May 31, 2024.
Your organization may have to report to the Minister of Public Safety on the steps your organization has taken to prevent and reduce the risk that child labour and or forced labour are used in your supply chain. Organizations subject to the Act will be required to submit annual reports to the Minister of Public Safety by May 31st

The Act generally targets publicly traded organizations and larger organizations (i.e. at least two of 250 employees, $20M in assets, $40M in revenue). More details regarding reporting obligations, responsibilities and potential penalties, please visit the government of Canada’s webpage.

Restaurants Canada has reached out to the Office of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Public Safety, to request an opportunity for its members to speak with officials to address technical questions and share any concerns they may have about compliance and reporting. 


From Jordi Morgan | Vice-President, Atlantic Canada

Nova Scotia: Budget Overview

The 2024-25 budget focuses on healthcare and housing, with a few nuggets that may positively affect foodservice and small business.

Nova Scotia Finance Minister Allan MacMaster presented his 2024-25 budget last week. The budget focused heavily on healthcare and housing. Easing the housing problem will have some positive impact on foodservice but small business also had a couple of specifically useful takeaways.

After years of asking, Nova Scotia will become the final province to address bracket creep starting in 2025. NS introduced an indexed personal income tax system so that taxable income brackets and certain non-refundable tax credits will be subject to annual adjustment for inflation. On the workforce side, more money is being put into apprenticeship programs and tax breaks are being provided to young people entering the trades through their More Opportunity for Skilled Trades and Occupations program (MOST), including workers in the culinary trades. Budget highlights can be found here.

PEI: Budget Overview

No direct relief for restaurants, but some support for tourism sector expansion.

The hospitality and foodservice sector had little specifically to celebrate in PEI Budget 2024 however, government is contributing $500,000 to help the tourism sector expand shoulder seasons and encourage product development. On the personal tax side, the budget raises the basic personal amount beginning in 2025 and included increases to most of the income tax bracket thresholds. There were no changes to the small business tax rate or threshold. As it was with other provincial budgets, healthcare and housing played the starring role. Highlights of Finance Minister Jill Burridge‘s budget can be found here.

PEI: Meetings

Restaurants Canada connects with caucus members and TIAPEI on key industry proposals in advance of provincial budget.

I was on Prince Edward Island last week ahead of the budget for discussions with government caucus and the Tourism Industry Association of PEI (TIAPEI).

Issues covered with Corryn Clemence, CEO of TIAPEI and with members of caucus included the proposal to rebate the processing costs of the provincial portion of the HST for restaurants, the introduction of a hiring assistance program, delaying the introduction of paid sick days, innovations in the tips and gratuities space, and modernization of beverage alcohol regulations. Special thanks to RC’s PEI Board member Kent Scales for his invaluable assistance.

Newfoundland: St. John’s Airport Opportunity

YYT issues RFEOI for airport concession operators.

Steve Denty, Manager, Commercial Development and Customer Experience of the St. John’s International Airport Authority asked Restaurants Canada to pass this opportunity along.

YYT is looking for expressions of interest in the available concession spaces at the Airport Terminal Building. If this is something your organization might benefit from or be interested in exploring, you can find more information on the process here.

Newfoundland and Labrador: Immigration Virtual Fairs

Next free event is coming up on March 27th.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is hosting another in its series of Immigration Virtual Fairs, framed as an opportunity to meet with qualified candidates for your business. The next event is happening March 27th from 8:30 PM–12:30 AM and is free of charge. If you are targeting international talent from The Americas, this may be for you. You can find out more here.


From Kris Barnier | Vice-President, Central Canada & the North

Ontario: Premier Ford to Visit the RC Show

Outreach to other senior officials continues.

Premier Ford’s team reached out to staff to share that the Premier has accepted Restaurant Canada’s invitation to attend the show.  RC staff are coordinating with the Premier’s team on logistics and details. 

Restaurants Canada has also reached out to Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and is working on other senior Ontario ministers whose portfolios align with member priorities.

Ontario: Provincial Budget

Restaurants Canada remains hopeful its pre-budget submission requests will be represented in the March 26th release.

The Ontario Budget will be delivered on March 26th. Ontario is facing considerable pressure from rising health care expenses, public sector wages and the post-secondary education sector. The province will also have to demonstrate progress on building and key infrastructure programs and housing supply. This will likely result in a slim budget that is primarily focused on the priorities outlined above. 

Restaurants Canada delivered a pre-budget submission that focuses on core member priorities around inflation relief for our industry. We remain hopeful and will respond to the budget after it is delivered.

Ontario: Working for Workers Legislation

Upcoming meeting planned to address Restaurants Canada’s concerns related to gratuity platform wording.

Restaurants Canada has been monitoring the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Skills Development’s upcoming labour bill. As part of this process, Restaurants Canada is meeting with the Minister’s office on March 12th. Restaurants Canada has some concerns surrounding wording in the bill related to gratuities that could impact the use of tipping platforms in our industry. Watch for an update following this meeting. 

Manitoba: Provincial Budget

Delivery planned for early April.

The Manitoba Government has announced that the provincial Budget will be presented on April 2nd. Restaurants Canada’s pre-budget submission included several recommendations related to inflation relief for our industry and labour supply. RC will respond as appropriate. 

Sustainability – Multi Material Stewardship Manitoba (MMSM)

Kris Barnier nominated to represent Restaurants Canada on the MMSM Board of Directors.  

Restaurants Canada has written to MMSM to nominate me, as the Restaurants Canada representative on its Board of Directors. Restaurants Canada continues to work closely with government agencies and industry partners to ensure that movement toward a more sustainable restaurant industry recognizes past achievements and considers the unique challenges faced by our sector. 


From Mark von Schellwitz | Vice-President, Western Canada

Alberta: AAIP Tourism and Hospitality Stream Implemented

Restaurants Canada tourism and hospitality members are eligible for new immigration stream.

Following the February 13th formal Alberta Advantage Immigration Program (AAIP) Tourism and Hospitality Stream announcement quoting Restaurants Canada in the press release, members were able to access the AAIP new stream effective March 1st and many members have already submitted applications through the new stream.

One of the eligibility requirements for the new immigration stream is that tourism and hospitality businesses must be members of one of the listed sector industry associations, including Restaurants Canada, to be eligible for the new immigration stream. Members can use their Restaurants Canada membership ID # received when onboarding as a member or other proof of membership (i.e. paid RC invoice) to be eligible.

For those restaurant franchisees that are RC members through their franchisor, please reach out to your franchisor head office for your membership ID or other proof of membership. Should members have trouble finding proof of membership they are encouraged to reach out to members@restaurantscanada.org.

Alberta members interested in utilizing the new immigration stream must also meet other eligibility criteria and are encouraged to visit the AIIP Tourism and Hospitality Stream website for eligibility and application details. As the number of Permanent Resident nominations under this stream are limited, interested eligible members are encouraged to apply.

Alberta: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Registration for PPP Producers

PPP producer registration was due March 1, 2024, but is still open.

The implementation process of Alberta’s Extended Producer Responsibility for Single-Use Products, Packaging and Paper products (PPP) continues leading up to implantation on April 1, 2025. As part of the process, PPP producers are required to register with the Alberta Recycling Management Authority as producers by March 1, 2024.

If member PPP producers have not yet registered, they can do so here. If you have any questions or require assistance registering, please contact epr@albertarecycling.ca or call 1-888-999-8762. Any members who would like to provide input and suggestions on lowering the business portion of municipal property taxes and assessments are encouraged to so by reaching out to mark@restaurantscanada.org.

Alberta: Budget Highlights

Labour shortages and review of the provincial Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act addressed.

On February 29th the Alberta government tabled another balanced budget for fiscal year 2024/25 with a modest $367 million surplus. The amount of the surplus was small relative to the $5.2 billion surplus in fiscal year 2023-24 due to declining resource revenue and a 3.9 per cent ($2.2 billion) increase in expenditures. The budget projects continuing surpluses of $1.44 billion in 2025-26 and $2.64 billion in 2026-27.

The budget once again highlighted that Alberta has the lowest personal and business taxes in Canada and is the most competitive province in Canada for attracting and retaining businesses. There are no new tax increases in the budget other than a small increase in tobacco product taxes and a new Electric Vehicle registration fee of $200 starting in 2025.

Of interest to Restaurants Canada members, ongoing labour shortages were also addressed in the budget with an additional $102 million allocated to providing an additional 3,200 apprenticeship seats. It also allocates an additional $1 million to support a review of the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act and supporting Regulation, with the objective of reducing liquor related regulatory burden.

More information on the budget including links to various budget documents can be found here.

BC: 2024 Minimum Wage Increase Announced

Jump to $17.40/hour comes into effect at the beginning of June this year.

On February 26th the BC government announced a 3.9 per cent minimum wage increase from $16.75 to $17.40 per hour, effective June 1st, 2024.

The increase is consistent with BC’s indexation formula tying minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation. The latest minimum wage adjustment follows several years of larger-than-inflation minimum wage increases and labour policies that have significantly raised labour costs for the industry. While we are disappointed, it is worth noting that, at least, the current indexation formula is objective, predictable and consistent with cost-of-living increases. More information is included in the minimum wage increase press release.

BC: Vancouver City Council Votes to Repeal Single-Use Item Bylaw

Unanimous vote will see certain SUI bylaw requirements rescinded beginning this month.

On February 28th Restaurants Canada addressed Vancouver City Council speaking in support of the City of Vancouver’s Single-Use Item (SUI) bylaw report recommending that Council rescind the City of Vancouver’s SUI bylaw requirements regarding foam containers, plastic straws, single-use utensils and plastic shopping bags effective March 12, 2024, and provisions regarding paper and reusable shopping bags effective July 15, 2024.

Rescinding the bylaw eliminates conflicts and overlap with the new federal and provincial SUI regulations and addresses Restaurants Canada’s long-standing recommendation to harmonize SUI bylaws into federal and provincial regulations eliminating the patchwork of inconsistent municipal SUI bylaws.

The report also recommended that the City write to both the federal environment minister and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities encouraging the federal government to enhance accessibility under the federal regulation by aligning with the City’s SUI bylaw’s plastic straw accessibility provisions and request that the province work in consultation with local governments and other stakeholders to develop circular cup packaging regulations that are consistent across BC.

BC: Chicken Price Increase

“Chickan’t Afford Me Anymore” campaign launched and backed by public opinion polls.

On February 27th, following a letter writing campaign and behind the scenes advocacy prior to the new year, and Restaurants Canada’s January 22nd BC chicken price press release which opposed a 2024 10 per cent BC chicken price increase and criticized the BC chicken price increase approval process, Restaurants Canada launched the “Chickan’t Afford Me Anymore” public relations/social media campaign.

The campaign is backed by public opinion survey data indicating that 78 per cent of British Columbians would be concerned (with 21 per cent very upset) if chicken prices increase by another 10 percent, 48 per cent of respondents indicated that they would purchase less chicken and 24 per cent stated they would stop buying chicken altogether. For more information, the February 27th campaign launch press release can be found here and the campaign landing page can be found here.

Members are encouraged look out for “Chickan’t Afford Me Anymore” campaign messaging on social media and support the campaign by amplifying campaign messaging through their social media channels.

Manitoba: Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservices Association (MRFA) Gala

Restaurants Canada pleased to sponsor and attend the association’s Passion for Fare Gala.

Restaurants Canada was pleased to participate and sponsor the reception at the Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservices Association’s 2024 “Passion for Fare” Gala event on February 29th.

Held in the Grand Ballroom at the Delta Winnipeg, it was a great opportunity to network with a wide variety of Manitoba restaurateurs over Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.

Top row, from left to right: Sergei Didenko, Chef Director, Canadian Culinary Federation; Bonnie Mularchuk, Associate Member, Canadian Culinary Federation; Scott Hyndman, Vice-President, Canadian Culinary Federation; Hans Schweitzer, Chef Director, Canadian Culinary Federation; and Stephanie Jeffrey.
Bottom row, from left to right: Mark von Schellwitz, V-P Western Canada, Restaurants Canada; Paljor Dolma, Senior Manager, Member Marketing & Engagement, Restaurants Canada; Sheena Kilpatrick, Social Media, MRFA, Shaun Jeffrey, CEO, MRFA.

In closing, I would like to share our excitement in announcing the incredible and inimitable Gabriel Stulman of NYC’s Happy Cooking Hospitality, who will take to the stage for a fireside chat at Breakfast With Champions, RC Show’s top-rated morning leadership event. Gabriel’s innovative approach to hospitality and culinary excellence is sure to enlighten and energize our discussions and inspire new ones. This year’s Breakfast is hosted by Miss Moço, of The Drake’s Drag Brunch, and opens with an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Ceremony by Anishinaabe Traditional Grandmother Kim Wheatley, Ancestral Knowledge Keeper. It will also feature data-driven insights from Environics Analytics, and a Global Expansion session where Technomic will present compelling data on launching Canadian brands on the global stage, followed by a moderated discussion with two seasoned panelists who will share their experience in bringing Canadian brands to global markets or in introducing their offerings to Canada. Hospitality leader Chef Bashir Munye will speak on Decolonizing the Table, a reflection on the social and economic impact of colonization in the hospitality industry, with the Restaurants Canada Awards of Excellence ceremony honouring some of the best and brightest in our business saved for the end of the event.

We are also looking forward to attending Industry Night Out, the most sought-after industry event of the year, by hospitality professionals for hospitality professionals. This year’s celebration takes place at VELA Toronto, home of contemporary cuisine by Chef Marvin Palomo and superior cocktails by Robin Goodfellow.

If you haven’t reserved your Breakfast With Champions ticket or table, or your ticket for Industry Night Out, I encourage you to do so here.

We are also honoured to welcome legendary sommelier, winemaker and designer André Hueston Mack to the Bar Stage at RC Show 2024 as the keynote speaker. André’s passion and his unique perspective on the beverage industry will undoubtedly enrich our understanding and appreciation of the art and business of wine.

Culinary Stage highlights include the ever-incredible Garland Canada Culinary Competition and a very special in-Show knife skills session with MasterClass G.O.A.T. and Guinness World Record holder Wallace Wong.

I hope to meet you at RC Show 2024. Members attend free, so register now to take your place as we continue to support and shape the future of the Canadian restaurant industry together.

Yours in solidarity and commitment to empowering women and all underserved and underrecognized communities for a powerful, profitable restaurant industry,

Kelly Higginson

Restaurants Canada Digital

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