REGINA -- A new petition advocating for Saskatchewan’s craft brewers is starting to gain traction with the goal of ending the province’s production levy on small breweries.

Alysia Johnson started the petition and says dropping the levy would be a way for the province to show support for the industry as it weathers the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really love what the craft beer scene has brought to Saskatchewan,” Johnson said. “It’s just so great to support local, I love what they’re doing and we’re fortunate to have a scene as vibrant as the Saskatchewan craft beer scene.”

Johnson adds the economic benefits to agriculture and other sectors created by a strong craft brewing scene in the province should not be ignored.

“It’s something you can rally around with your friends and you know they’re sourcing local ingredients, they’re helping local farmers,” Johnson said.

The Saskatchewan Craft Brewers Association currently has 15 member breweries and a handful more exist around the province.

Glenn Valgardson, the general manager at Regina-based Pile O’ Bones Brewing Company, called the petition a “noble cause” and added a lower production levy would be especially helpful given the economic challenges presented by the pandemic.

“Revenues are considerably down, it’s really really tough,” Valgardson “We’re hoping that when Saskatchewan starts to open up again in the future we can really get back to what our business is built around.”

The production levy is a tax on alcohol production and Valgardson estimated Pile O’ Bones is on track to pay the government about $100,000 this year in levy costs at $0.17 per litre.

Valgardson noted the current levy in Saskatchewan is considerably higher than those in Manitoba and Alberta, and a lower rate could further fuel the growth of craft brewing post-pandemic.

“Saskatchewan is among if not the highest in the entire country,” Valgardson said. “Manitoba’s and Alberta’s are almost half of what ours are and in the craft brewing industry, you’ve seen those industries double from what our growth is.”

“I’m not asking for a handout from the government, I’d just like to see it more in kind with our neighbouring provinces.”

Valgardson says the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority has given them a temporary break by suspending levy payments for now.

“We still owe that money, but we can pay it back later,” Valgardson said.

That’s why Johnson believes now is a good time to help ensure craft brewing in Saskatchewan stays strong and keep them from needing to lay off staff or make other pandemic-related cutbacks.

“We want to see them come out of this economic hardship stronger and better than ever,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to see these people go away, they’ve done so much for us.”

Johnson said she hopes to see the petition reach 1,000 signatures by the end of its first week. Her goal is to eventually take it to the legislature with around 10,000.