End of a product line for Twillingate winery

Auk Island facing massive license fee increase from province


Published on April 11, 2017

Auk Island Winery is considering shutting down its popular line of iceberg products after the province hiked license fees immensely in last October’s budget.

©Contributed Image

TWILLINGATE, N.L. — Last year 55,000 people walked through the doors of the Auk Island Winery looking for icebergs products.

However, with an estimated increase of over 700 per cent in the cost of their raw product, the winery is considering shutting down the product line that helped make it famous.

Twillingate residents and winery owners Danny Bath and Grant Young can’t understand the government's thinking, or justification, for the huge increase.

“The only gentleman we’ve spoken to (with government) is the gentleman who we issue reports too and who issues the licences,” said Bath. “He won’t give us any explanation whatsoever. He just said it was in the budget and you should have known it was in the budget.”

Under the old licence, the winery was allowed to collect 10 million litres of water from icebergs at a cost of $1200 for a five-year period. Under the new fee system, a 10 million-litre license will cost $10,000 for the same five-year period.

Bath has reached out to local MHA Derek Bennett but to date has not received any response.

“Can’t even get him to talk to me on the situation,” Bath said of his provincial representative. “I’ve never been so disappointed in my life, I got to be honest with you.”

When TC Media reached out to Bennett at his Confederation Building Office, the inquiry was met with an "out of service" message. Inquires to determine another contact number lead to the disconnected number or the constituency office in Bennett’s hometown of Lewisporte.

The winery has enlisted the help of the Canadian Federation of Small Business to help bend the ear of provincial politicians, specifically Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce whose department is responsible for the fee increase. To date, they have not received response from the minister.

“All I’m trying to do is create a line of communication to find out why all this is going on,” Bath told TC Media. “I just cannot get an answer from anyone.”

Bath says the winery will no longer produce iceberg products if the government maintains the fee structure. The decision is being made on principle, and in defense of the smaller players in the iceberg industry. In total there are nine licenses in use on the island. Bath says further fueling the confusion for industry players are the volumes themselves. Bath estimates all nine producers combined use less than the five million litres per year allocated to each license.

“This directly affects us as a tourism entity and it directly affects us as somewhere to go and somewhere for our visitors to enjoy,” said Bath. “There are a few little businesses making these novelty soaps, and they are using iceberg water. By the rights of the law right now, as far as the province is concerned, they need one of these $5,000 licences to continue doing that.”

TC Media has asked Bennett and Minister Joyce for comment. No response had been received by publication time.