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LOCAL CHAMBER SPEARHEADS EFFORT TO BRING DOWN BARRIERS TO INTER-PROVINCIAL WINE TRADE
OSOYOOS TIMES-June 15, 2011
By Karissa Gall – Osoyoos Times
The South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce has joined the call to the Canadian government to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, an act that many national businesses and industry stakeholders are calling archaic and in need of a change.
At the BC Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting held last month, local chamber President Petra Veintimilla and chief executive officer Bonnie Dancey brought forth a proposed policy for the Removal of Inter-Provincial Wine Barriers for Canadian Wine.
The policy calls on the federal government to work with provinces and territories to amend the prohibitive inter-provincial regulations of the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act.
The act, which dates back to 1928, prohibits the direct delivery of wines across provincial boundaries to businesses or individuals not affiliated with or representing that province’s liquor board or approved seller.
As such, the current regulations prohibit an individual from taking even one bottle of wine across a provincial boundary and amount to what the local chamber calls “an unfortunate handicap” for the growing Canadian wine industry.
As part of the proposed policy, the chamber put forward recommendations to the government to make it legal for 100-per-cent Canadian-made wines to be transported across provincial borders.
The chamber argued that the removal of barriers to inter-provincial sales for personal use would afford small to mid-sized wineries a competitive way to sell their wines, benefitting domestic wine sales, domestic tourism and creating more national choices for Canadian wine drinkers.
The proposed policy and recommendations were passed unanimously at the meeting.
Veintimilla said the policy will go on to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce for approval and from there to the federal government.
“Our request will be taken to the federal government by registered chamber lobbyists who will work hard to have the necessary changes made to the current law,” she said, noting that the lobbyists will request meetings with ministers and try to persuade them to realize the recommendations.
“From that point it’s a matter of how fast the government’s willing to act on things,” she said.
Veintimilla said that she is optimistic that the government will deal with the act sooner rather than later, as “everyone’s buzzing about the same issue.”
On May 13, Canadian television personality Terry David Mulligan carried a briefcase of B.C. wine across the British Columbia-Alberta border to protest the act.
And according to Veintimilla, two federal politicians – Conservative MPs Ron Cannan (Kelowna-Lake Country) and Dan Albas (Okanagan-Coquihalla) – have already contacted the chamber to express their support for the initiative.
NDP MP for the BC Southern Interior riding Alex Atamanenko said he is also on board and in September he wrote a letter to federal Finance Minister Gerry Ritz to ascertain whether progress was being made towards the modification of the act.
Atamanenko said that “there doesn’t appear to be any stumbling blocks here except time” and that “everybody appears to be on board with it.”
He said it was his understanding that the federal minister needs approval from his provincial counterparts before progress can be made.
Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater said he is in conversations with the provincial solicitor general, attorney general and Agriculture and Lands Ministry to try and “level the playing field” for wineries within the province.
He said “there are some tax implications” because, currently, wine is taxed when it is imported into the province.
Until 2005, similar prohibitive regulations affected the domestic wine industry in the United States from delivering directly to consumers over state borders.
Deeming the regulations to be unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the regulations to be adjusted to allow for domestic wines to be delivered across state jurisdictions.
According to the local chamber, U.S. wineries reported a 31-per-cent increase in direct sales to consumers in the 2006/2007 season, one year after the removal of the interstate wine barriers.