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Between the Vines

The barriers are still up

Most provinces reluctant to allow wine imports fromelsewhere in Canada. By Judie Steeves


espite B.C.’s (and Manitoba’s) lead, few other Canadian provinces have followed yet in amending legislation to permit wineries from other provinces to ship Canadian wine direct to consumers.

“We’re talking about free trade with the rest of the world, yet some of the most archaic interprovincial trade barriers still exist in Canada,” comments Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan.

“It doesn’t look good,” he added. Last June an ancient federal law prohibiting the taking or shipping of alcoholic beverages across provincial borders, without going through the provincial liquor board, was amended to permit wine to be taken from a producing province such as B.C. or Ontario, home to another province. The amendment to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA), a private member’s bill put forward by Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas, removed the federal restrictions prohibiting individuals from moving wine from one province to another when purchased for personal use. However, there are also provincial regulations that prohibit such importations, and so far, only B.C. and Manitoba have changed that, and Nova Scotia is discussing a proposal to do it. According to the Free My Grapes website (, only Manitoba residents are free to have wine shipped directly to their homes for personal use, without any limit on quantity.

Last summer, BC. changed its legislation to permit any amount of Canadian-made wine to be ordered by B.C. consumers for personal use without the addition of B.C. taxes, and in doing so, Rich Coleman, B.C.’s minister responsible for liquor laws, challenged other Canadian provinces to do the same—to open up provincial borders to free trade in wine.

A couple of months earlier, the B.C. 18

legislature, in anticipation of the federal government passing Bill C-311 and permitting inter-

provincial trade in wine, passed changes to permit B.C. residents to bring back up to one case of wine, four bottles of spirits and a combined total of six dozen beer, cider and coolers with them from other provinces.

That equals nine litres of wine, three litres of spirits and a combined total of 25.6 litres of beer, cider and coolers per trip, similar to the personal importation limits in other jurisdictions in Canada.

However, in all but JUDIE STEEVES

It was January this year before temperatures dropped to the required -8 C so pickers around the Okanagan could harvest frozen grapes for premium-priced icewine. B.C. Wine Authority general manager Steve Berney says about 450 tonnes of grapes were reported picked at 27 wineries, but quantities were lower than some years when growers were able to get the fruit off earlier. Here Shingras Gill picks at Mission Hill Family Estate in West Kelowna.

those two Canadian provinces, it’s still illegal to ship wine directly to consumers.

That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but there’s always the possibility the receiving province could investigate. Cannan says before it was prorogued in October, the Ontario legislature had a private member’s bill to consider that would have permitted a case of wine to be brought in personally by a resident without penalty, but it would not permit

wine to be shipped there from another province.

“The liquor board can threaten to de- list a winery if it is caught shipping outside the regulations,” noted Cannan. He believes it would be good for everyone to lower the inter-provincial trade barriers to shipping wine between provinces.

“They’re just looking after themselves. It’s not following the will of the public,” he said.

Providing Canadian Grapevine Solutions ONTARIO

BRITISH COLUMBIA Frank Whitehead p. 250-762-9845 c. 250-878-3656

Wes Wiens/Tina Tourigny p. 905-984-4324

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2013

NOVA SCOTIA Michael Lightfoot p. 902-542-1571 c. 902-698-6909

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