B.C. allows Canadian wines to be shipped across provincial borders without markups

Advocacy by wine producers in BC is triggering swift legislative change

In what could be considered lightning speed by government standards, BC wine industry insiders and advocates are getting the Government of British Columbia to respond to their demands for more openness to markets. As a first step, this morning Minister Rich Coleman in cooperation with the BC Wine Institute, has announced that BC residents can purchase unlimited quantities of Canadian wine directly from producers from outside BC without provincial markups.

The Minister is now encouraging other Canadian provinces to follow BC's lead and "to take immediate steps to reciprocate by opening up their borders and allow all Canadians to order wine over the Internet". This is good news for wine consumers, and provided other provinces like Ontario follow suit, BC winemakers will benefit from the expanded market.

These legislative changes are a by-product of the recent passing of Bill C311, the Private Member's Bill put forward by Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas. The bill which removes 80-year old prohibitions on the movement of wine between provinces received unanimous support from both the House of Commons and the Senate before being passed into law.

Liquor legislation across Canada is a complicated affair, with each province having its own set of laws. Unraveling and modernizing these laws to allow Canadians better access to 100% Canadian wine has proved popular with the public. However, the changes are not without some risks. There are questions as to whether the current markup structure will trigger a legal challenge as a result of international trade rules set out by NAFTA and GATT. Fledgling Canadian wine producers would likely struggle in a full free trade scenario with international wine suppliers.

Today's announcement by the Minister will be seen as an important step in modernizing laws for the BC wine and agricultural industry. Above all it benefits BC wine consumers right away. It's expected that further legislative changes are to be announced in the weeks ahead by the BC government.

The following release has been sent out by the BC Provincial government, with the key changes bolded:

VICTORIA – Minister Rich Coleman announced today that British Columbians can now order their wine of choice from a recognized winery that produces 100-per-cent Canadian wine in another province and have it shipped directly to them.

"British Columbia is prepared to take the lead on opening up the Canadian marketplace for our world-renowned B.C. wineries," said Coleman, Minister responsible for liquor. "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."

Wine directly shipped from a winery in another Canadian jurisdiction to B.C. residents will be exempt from provincial mark-ups. To be eligible for direct shipping the wine ingredients must be 100-per-cent grown and produced in the province it is being shipped from, and the wine must be for personal consumption only. There is no limit on the number of bottles that can be shipped, provided they are for personal consumption.

"The BC Wine Institute is grateful the B.C. government is supporting consumers and the wine industry by taking a leadership role and taking steps towards improving the sale of local agricultural products across Canada," said Josie Tyabji, chairman of the BC Wine Institute. "This government clearly understands the advantages to consumers and the economic benefits to smaller wineries that do not always have products widely available outside their winery."

"This is another important step towards creating a more open marketplace for British Columbia's wine industry," said Coleman. "B.C. produces world-renowned wines and we want residents in all provinces to enjoy them."

These changes build on the B.C. government's commitment to modernize liquor laws.

– post by Mike