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PROPOSED LAW WOULD ALLOW WINE TO BE SHIPPED ACROSS PROVINCIAL BORDERS
OSOYOOS TIMES-December 8, 2010
By Tasleem Mawji – Osoyoos Times
Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan has tabled a motion in the House of Commons to legalize the transport of wines across provincial borders – an idea that has some in the wine industry hoping for change and liquor boards across the country warning of larger international implications.
“I’m crossing my fingers,” said Manfred Freese, the president of the B.C. Grape Growers Association.
“Canadians would have a lot to gain…the situation at this point is laughable.”
Currently, wines from one province cannot be taken or shipped to another province.
The law is based on federal legislation from 1928 called the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, which is likely related to prohibition, and which, according to Miles Prodan, the executive director of the B.C. Wine Institute, has a first offence penalty of a $200 fine or three months in jail.
“It’s due for an overhaul,” said Freese. “(The proposed motion) means, at least legally now, I could take a bottle of wine that I make here and take it to Ontario or send it to my friends there.”
The motion is not meant to allow for the sale of wines from one province in liquor stores in another province, but so that a person can legally take or ship bottles across provinces or have wineries ship bottles to them for personal consumption.
Right now, it is possible to order wine from other provinces through provincial liquor boards.
But that service is subject to fees charged by the boards and, according to Cannan, can take up to 120 days to reach the buyer.
Rowland Dunning, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions, said that provincial liquor boards would stand to lose some money if the law changed, but that there are much larger issues at play.
“If you open the borders to allowing wineries in Canada to ship to other provinces, with our free trade agreements and our EU (European Union) agreements, we could potentially be opening direct shipments from Europe, from California, from Chile, directly to consumers and bypassing liquor boards. And the revenues lost would be significant,” he said.
“Most of the European communities want to be able to have the same kind of treatment as given to domestic producers. And, so, if you allow a domestic producer unlimited access to (competing) jurisdictions then the European Union would be right down the Canadian government’s throat saying our members want the same kind of treatment as you’re giving your own members.”
Dunning also said that if the implication of the proposed law was to remain within Canadian borders that would be a different issue, but because of the free trade agreements and the fact that Canada is part of the global market, it will not stop there.
Freese said that most of the opposition is coming from Ontario, or the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), but Dunning said the liquor boards of other provinces have also written letters of concern.
Motions such as this often highlight policies related to wine that should be scrutinized and Prodan said that in itself is positive for the industry and consumers.
“It’s really gotten consumers to realize what’s going on. What we’ve seen already is a bit of a groundswell of consumer input,” he said.
A large part of that groundswell is a website called freemygrapes.ca which lists Cannan as a hero.
The website was created by a group established this year which calls itself the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers.
“Canadians should have the freedom to buy a legal product and ship it within the country… the needed changes can be made without undermining provincial revenues,” the site states.
The motion will not be voted on until the spring and will require further discussion before it becomes a bill and goes before the House.