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LETTER: Restrictive Alberta policy hurts B.C. wineries

Cease and desist notices were sent from Alberta to B.C. wineries
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A copy of this letter was sent to Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

Dear Premier Smith:

I am writing to you as both a concerned citizen and as one of the B.C. winery owners who recently received a cease and desist notice from the Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) regarding the direct-to-consumer sale of wine to Alberta residents.

I also serve as the CFO of a Grande Prairie company involved in the fracking business, with annual revenues exceeding $1,000,000. Our company takes pride in supporting the Alberta economy by purchasing local products and employing Alberta residents.

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The issue I wish to address is the restrictive liquor laws in Alberta that prevent B.C. wineries from shipping their products directly to Alberta residents. Despite the absence of any legal basis to restrict such shipments, the AGLC has taken an aggressive stance on this matter. Specifically, the AGLC conducted a sting operation targeting B.C. wineries that inquired about shipping to Alberta, and even if there was no evidence of any shipments taking place, they issued cease and desist notices.

In the cease and desist letters, the “AGLC expressed a desire to maintain the integrity of Alberta’s liquor model and protect the interests of Alberta retailers and liquor agents. Consequently, they have refused to accept inbound shipments from BC wineries after Jan. 22, 2024, unless these wineries agree to cease direct-to-consumer shipping operations to Alberta.”

What concerns me greatly is that this policy seems one-sided and very outdated. Alberta breweries, distilleries, and wineries enjoy the privilege of shipping directly to B.C. consumers. However, B.C. wineries are not afforded the same opportunity in Alberta. This asymmetry not only places B.C. wineries at a disadvantage to foreign wineries but also limits consumer choice in Alberta.

I believe that it is in the best interest of both provinces to create a more balanced and fair regulatory framework that allows businesses to compete on a level playing field. Furthermore, the restriction on direct-to-consumer shipments hinders economic opportunities for small, family-owned wineries like mine and ultimately limits the choices available to Alberta residents.

I respectfully request your attention to this issue and encourage you to explore options that would bring Alberta’s liquor laws in line with those of four other provinces in Canada. For example, the adoption of a liquor sales tax in Alberta, similar to B.C. and other provinces, could provide a source of revenue while allowing consumers to access a wider variety of Canadian wines without excessive price markups or requiring Canadian wineries to sell at significant discount to what we sell in B.C.

I would appreciate the opportunity to further discuss this matter with you, as it affects both my business interests and my connection to Alberta. I believe that by modernizing these outdated regulations, Alberta can better support the Canadian wine industry and provide its citizens with more affordable and diverse choices in liquor consumption.

Ron Kubek