Local wine producers made their pitch in Kelowna Thursday for more federal help in getting other provinces on board with a new federal law that allows wine to be shipped from province to province in Canada.
Federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis was in West Kelowna with both local MPs, Ron Cannan (Kelowna-Lake Country) and Dan Albas (Okanagan-Coquihalla) to talk to vintners about the industry.
Currently, only B.C. and Manitoba allow wine to be shipped to them from another province despite the fact the federal government changed the law to allow individuals to have wine shipped home to them from wineries elsewhere last year.
The move to allow intra-provincial shipping of Canadian wine was started by Cannan a few years ago and spearheaded in the last session of Parliament by Albas.
Speaking at Quail’s Gate Winery Thursday morning, Paradis, who is also minister of state for agriculture and responsible for the wine industry, said the federal government has done all it can to allow the free trade of wine in the country and now it is up to the provinces.
He said he was concerned about “foot dragging,” by provinces like Ontario and Alberta and would like to see them get on board with B.C. and Manitoba.
Tony Stewart of Quail’s Gate, who is also chairman of the Canadian Vintners’ Association, said the new rules would help smaller wineries, which may not be big enough to get into provincial liquor distribution systems in provinces where they want to sent their products.
Allowing them to ship direct to a customer in another province could help the small wineries gain recognition and markets, and in turn grow.
Members of the association met with Paradis, Cannan and Albas Thursday morning at Quail’s Gate.
Stewart said looking to the United States as an example of an jurisdiction where free domestic trade in wine is allowed, only one per cent is sent across state lines.
He said if the same situation occurs here, it would not be a large financial hardship to the revenues of any provincial liquor distribution operation.
It is believed Ontario and Alberta are opposed to letting wine from B.C. be shipped there because of concerns it could affect revenue to their respective provincial liquor distribution branches and, in the case of Alberta, the many private liquor stores in that province.
Albas said he is frustrated that more provinces have not signed on to allow wine to be sent from other provinces but he believes progress is being made.
He urged the Canadians in other provinces to contact their provincial MLAs io urge them to support opening their borders to B.C. wine.