Opinion

Stewart: Provincial government breaks down wine sale barriers

Being an MLA, business owner and wine lover, sometimes you react to news in different ways.

If you’re active on social media, you may have seen the unofficial Free My Grapes campaign.

Until very recently, visitors to other Canadian provinces could purchase wines from wineries for personal use—but only in person.

It’s always been faintly ridiculous that, when it came to ordering wine, Canadians were restricted by provincial boundaries.

It’s strange enough in B.C., but can you imagine living in eastern Ontario and being unable to order from the Quebec winery you can actually see across the river?

Removing this strange and outdated law was the idea behind MP Dan Albas’ Bill C-311.

Once it passed in Ottawa, the federal government allowed provinces to set their own interprovincial wine import and export policies—and wine lovers made it clear they wanted to have the option.

Last week, cabinet minister Rich Coleman announced B.C. would lead our fellow provinces in following the spirit of C-311.

As of now, British Columbians can have wine shipped to them, exempt from provincial mark-ups, from any other province. There are three conditions—the wine must be for personal consumption only, come from a recognized winery and the wine must be 100 per cent Canadian.

You might ask how “personal use” will be regulated.

Enjoying a bottle of wine over dinner at home obviously qualifies, but what about to give as a gift, or serve party guests?

We’ve chosen not to over-regulate and frustrate British Columbians.

We trust that B.C. residents will only order wine for personal use.

Purchasing wine via direct shipping for any retail purpose is still against the law.

You might also be curious how will levels of personal consumption be determined. Again, we’ve chosen not to over-regulate. There is no limit on the amount of 100 per cent Canadian wine that a British Columbian can import into the province.

Once again—to be crystal clear—the only restriction is that it be for personal use.

As a wine lover, this makes me happy. They do make some very nice wine in Ontario, and it will be nice to have the option to order some.

But for my fellow winery owners in B.C., unfortunately for now this is a one-way street.

Until other provinces enact similar legislation, B.C. wineries still cannot ship to private citizens elsewhere in Canada.

That’s obviously not something we can directly affect, other than through negotiation, and leading by example.

When will this happen? We’ve committed to negotiating agreements as quickly as possible; and are hopeful other provinces and territories will be willing to engage with us in the near future.

As for leading by example—we can only hope the other provinces follow our lead.

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