By Laura Jones
My husband and I visited some friends in Ontario, and thanks to the recent passing of Bill C-311, we can now legally give them some B.C. wine as a gift.
Or can we?
Bill C-311 amended the 84-year-old federal law, dating to Prohibition, that made it illegal to carry or ship wine directly across provincial borders (for example from a B.C. winery to Ontario).
The law was a poster child for ridiculous red tape and long overdue for amendment.
For small wineries, Bill C-311 seemed like a godsend: explaining to customers why you can’t send them wine because they happen to live out of province wasn’t anybody’s idea of a good time.
Unfortunately, it takes more than just amending outdated federal legislation to untangle the mess of rules governing wine travelling across provincial borders. The provinces are involved in regulating, too.
The good news is that all provinces, except Quebec, allow individuals to physically take various quantities with them for personal use. It’s now legal, for example, for a Calgarian to buy a bottle of wine from a B.C. winery and take it home.
The bad news is that most provinces don’t seem eager to allow their residents to have wine sent to them from other provinces.
According to the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions, which represents 13 liquor boards and commissions, right now there are only two exceptions.
Manitoba allows its resident to ship unlimited amounts of wine from other provinces as long as it is for personal use. The province had no regulations saying otherwise on its books, so importing was allowed by default after C-311 passed.
B.C. showed leadership among provinces by changing its regulations quickly after C-311 was passed to make importing directly for personal use legal.
If I visit an Ontario winery, I can now legally have as much as I like shipped to me (as long as it is for personal consumption and 100 per cent Canadian wine only). I can order it online, too. If you are a wine aficionado, count yourself lucky to live here.
I propose a toast to these two provinces for quickly and clearly supporting the federal red tape slashing.
Dan Albus, the MP who introduced Bill C-311, and Shirley-Ann George, who continues to push for more freedom for wineries and consumers through her website FreeMyGrapes.ca, also a Canadian Federation of Independent Business Golden Scissors Award for cutting red tape.
As for the other provinces that have yet to join the party, what’s the hold-up? Isn’t supporting local wineries and giving consumers more choice worthy of their immediate support?
Despite C-311, inter-provincial trade barriers for wine-shipping are still alive and kicking.
Laura Jones is executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.