Vintage liquor laws too lucrative to update

This response is to your editorial that appeared in the Capital News of Aug. 11: Time to Rethink Vintage Wine laws.

To the editor:

This response is to your editorial that appeared in the Capital News of Aug. 11: Time to Rethink Vintage Wine laws.

In 1948, at age 10, I made my annual journey by CNR passenger train from Edmonton to Vancouver at the beginning of July and return before September school started. Before arrival at Jasper on the westbound that day, I had heard many adults talk about B.C. being dry due to a strike.

When the train made its 30-minute stop at Jasper, there was a mad dash by many persons to the Alberta government liquor store who returned with purchases. Under way again, the train proceeded west.

Then a sudden stop—short of an emergency brake application—occurred at Red Pass Jct., B.C., situated on the shore of Moose Lake whose outflow is the start of the Fraser River, and just into B.C. A contingency of RCMP officers boarded the train and made a thorough search confiscating all the liquor purchases. The train was delayed about one hour during this debacle which left a lot of passengers with sad faces. Fact learned: one was not allowed to transport liquor of any type across a provincial boundary.

Later on, as a CNR employee, I noted that the dining car on the transcontinental train cycled between Vancouver and Winnipeg. On this car were separate steel cabinets controlled by the chief steward, one for liquor sales while the car was in B.C., one for Alberta, one for Saskatchewan, and one for Manitoba. The steward, for example, would stop sales of B.C. Liquor Board controlled items, make a tally, lock and seal the compartment, and as the train had now entered Alberta, he would open the Alberta compartment for sales.

Once, while assigned to Kamloops Jct., B.C., I was dispatched to Red Pass Jct. on a freight. At Red Pass I had to remove the live wiring to the locomotive water tank in order for its demolition—no more steam locomotives. A person in plain clothes who stood beside me watching, struck up a conversation, then invited me over to his lakefront cabin for coffee. Turned out to be a Mountie. This territory, he related, was his assignment which included interdiction of alcohol traffic B.C. to Alberta and Alberta to B.C. in the days before the Yellowhead Highway was built. After three hours the next westbound freight stopped for me and returned me to Kamloops Jct.

Later on in my career, I worked for Canadian Pacific Airlines in the properties and facilities department. At the Vancouver Operations Centre, and in the stores department, there were two federal government bond rooms, one domestic and one international. There, the bar trollies from flights were unloaded, cleaned, restocked and sealed in preparation for the next outbound flight.

In the domestic bond room, liquor sales were handled in a similar manner as the dining car, mentioned above. There sales were of the miniature bottle type, with liquor shipped “in bond” from the various provinces.

On the international side, all incoming trollies had the contents stripped and sorted. Australian products, (wine included), would be put in a trolley and sealed for sales out of Fiji southbound. Sales out of Vancouver would be Canadian stock. All opened large bottles would have their contents poured down the drain.

In summary, I do not think provincial governments are willing to change the laws that were introduced back in 1927. This revenue-generating business is quite lucrative. Technically, transporting the wine you mentioned is a criminal act as it now stands.

To carry your editorial further, in my career I have had similar jurisdictional problems as I worked in the provinces of B.C., Alberta and Manitoba. For example, neither province would honor the other’s drivers license or trade certificates. Going from B.C. to Alberta for example, one would have to write the trade exam before one could receive a license to work. In my case, the railway work was under federal jurisdiction and exempt from provincial regulations.

In closing, I would like to see all the vintage laws be reworked and brought into today’s context. All jurisdictions should be covered by one law “from coast to coast to coast.”



George Bergson,



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