Supreme Court of Canada ruling a “missed opportunity” for B.C. wineries

Supreme Court of Canada ruling a “missed opportunity” for B.C. wineries

B.C. Wine Institute and its members disappointed about ruling on interprovincial trade

The B.C. Wine Institute and its members are calling a Supreme Court ruling that failed to break down interprovincial trade barriers a “missed opportunity.”

“The court’s ruling today is disappointing for the B.C. wine industry,” said Miles Prodan president and CEO of the B.C. Wine Institute in a news release. “We will continue our work both directly and through the (Canadian Vinters Association) with the federal/provincial/territorial governments’ Alcoholic Beverages Working Group, industry, governments and the provinces to remove the barriers and allow winery direct shipping to customers across Canada.”

Related: Canada’s Supreme Court to hear from small B.C. wineries

The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on Her Majesty the Queen v. Gerard Comeau challenged restrictions on interprovincial trade, an issue the BCWI and the Canadian Vintners Association has been working on for over a decade.

On Thursday morning at 9:45 a.m. (EST) the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Section 121 does not impose absolute free trade across Canada.

“Removing restrictions would have opened the door to allowing consumers to order wine for direct delivery to their home from any Canadian winery located in any province. We call that direct-to-consumer, it is something nine out of 10 Canadians believe should be permitted, and we now eagerly await the provinces making this choice available to their citizens,” said Dan Paszkowski, president and CEO of the Canadian Vinters Association.

In October 2012, Gerard Comeau of New Brunswick purchased beer and spirits in Quebec and drove back to New Brunswick. He was charged with possessing liquor purchased from outside the province in quantities that exceeded the province’s prescribed limit, an offence under section 134 of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act. The trial judge held that section 134(b) of the Liquor Control Act constitutes a trade barrier (violating section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867) and dismissed the charge against Mr. Comeau. The case subsequently made its way to the Supreme Court.

“It’s important to recognize that interprovincial trade barriers affect a range of industries, including wine,” said Paszkowski.

The B.C. Wine Institute and its members said unfair interprovincial trade barriers have impeded Canada’s wine industry growth and prevented consumers from purchasing the Canadian wines of their choice.

“This morning’s ruling is disappointing for our industry. Every wine producing nation in the world has direct sales within its own country” said Tony Stewart, proprietor and CEO of Quails’ Gate Winery. “Canada needs to correct this so that we can start to create a level playing field with the rest of the world.”

Canada’s wine industry had seen the ruling as a way to open the doors to direct-to-consumer wine purchases across the country. According to wine industry leaders, direct-to-consumer would lead to important growth for the industry. According to the B.C. Wine Institute, industry research shows that for every $1 spent on Canadian wine in Canada, $3.42 in Gross Domestic Product is generated across the country.