Kelowna-Lake Country MP Norm Letnick says the B.C. government is “throwing down the gauntlet” to other provinces by opening its borders to wine from the rest of Canada.
A month after the federal government gave the provinces the right to open their borders to the transportation of Canadian wine, B.C.’s minister in charge of liquor, Rich Coleman announced Thursday this province will allow unlimited supplies of wine from the rest of Canada to be shipped to residents of B.C. without additional taxes, as long as it is for personal use and the wine is made from 100 per cent Canadian grapes and other ingredients.
And in doing so, Letnick said B.C. is challenging other provinces to match the move.
“We are opening our borders and we want other provinces to follow suit,” he said.
Just before last month’s approval by MPs in Ottawa of a private member’s bill to allow wine to be transported across Canadian provincial borders, the province announced that British Columbians would be allowed to bring one case of wine into B.C. in addition to four bottles of spirits, and a combined total of six dozen beer, cider and coolers from other provinces for personal consumption. For 84 years it was illegal to transport alcohol over interprovincial boundaries.
For years wineries had complained that the rule stopped tourists and wine fans from taking home a few bottles from wineries they visited in B.C.
Letnick said the one-case rule will remain in effect for wine from outside Canada, but wine produced in this country will be allowed to flow freely into the province with no limit, as long as it meets the Canadian content requirements. As for flowing out, that will be up to the other provinces, he added.
Coleman echoed Letnick’s remarks, saying B.C. is prepared to take the lead on the issue.
“British Columbia is prepared to take the lead on opening up the Canadian marketplace for our world-renowned B.C. wineries,” said Coleman in making his announcement. “Today, we encourage other jurisdictions to take immediate steps to reciprocate by opening up
their borders and allow all Canadians to order wine over the Internet.”
The local MLa said Coleman has written letters to government leaders in the other provinces urging them to follow B.C.’s lead.
Speaking in Kelowna, NDP leader Adrian Dix applauded the government’s move, saying the Liberal government deserves credit for making it, albeit a few weeks late.
He said his party had been pushing for such a move since before he was leader of the party and since becoming leader, he has personally lobbied the premier Ontario to do just B.C. is now doing. Ontario has a burgeoning wine industry centred in the Niagara region of that province.
Dix added the government of Manitoba is already on board with the move to allow cross-provincial border wine shipments.
Josie Tyabji, chairwoman of the BC Wine Institute, said the move shows Victoria understands the advantages to consumers and the economic benefits to smaller wineries that do not always have products widely available outside their wineries.
“This is another important step towards creating a more open marketplace for British Columbia’s wine industry,” she said.