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Great Wine North
Michael E. Cobb
Michael E. Cobb

June 2012-This is a uniquely Canadian story. Many people do not know that it is against the law for consumers to transport wine, beer or spirits, purchased in one province, to another, or for wineries to ship directly to consumers in another province. This strange archaic law was passed by the Federal Government during prohibition days in the late 1920s. Some call it the Berlin Wine Wall. That will hopefully change soon. It will need the co-operation of the Federal and Provincial Governments. A private member's bill, Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use), has passed 3rd reading and is headed for the senate. A private member's bill is one proposed by an M.P., not the government. Bill C-311 received unanimous support from all parties, something rare in our Parliamentary system. One might wonder why it took so long. The answer lies in the monopoly powers enjoyed by the Provincial Liquor Boards (eg LCBO in Ontario); historically, they wanted to control the flow of all liquors, including wine. Over time, the Liquor Boards became more concerned with maintaining profits. At any rate, the Bill is expected to pass the Senate shortly, assuming it does not get tied up with the Conservative Government's omnibus Bill 38, which is a mega bunch of laws, currently being debated in Ottawa. When Bill C-311 is passed into law, it will allow the interprovincial importation of wine for personal use only and specifically, "the importation of wine from a province by an individual, if the individual brings the wine or causes it to be brought into another province, in quantities and as permitted by the laws of the latter province, for his or her personal consumption, and not for resale or other commercial use.". However, again, the Provinces will have to change their rules in order to make this happen. Currently, Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, have apparently indicated that they will allow a case of wine (ie 7 litres) to be shipped or brought into their Provinces by individuals. If all this comes to pass, it will help small wineries, which often do not produce enough quantities to be listed on Liquor Boards, to expand their markets. It remains to be seen how many provinces will be on side. Stay tuned.

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