The federal government eased interprovincial rules surrounding the movement of wines and craft spirits a couple of years ago, but it is still illegal for Ontarians to buy their favourite wines from a BC winery and have them shipped to their homes. The jury is still out on why the Ontario government is sticking to their guns when it comes to this particular interprovincial trade barrier.
Ask any Ontario wine maker and they’ll tell you they welcome the competition. They know their wines are as unique as the area where the grapes are grown. Besides, they already compete on a world stage with Europe and American wines. In a recent interview Allan Schmidt, chair of the Ontario Wine Council and president of Vineland Estates Winery said he wasn’t afraid of competition with anybody. Bill George, chair of the Grape Growers of Ontario said he would love to see looser rules when it comes to cross border sales.
Consumers in BC can now get Dill Pickle vodka from Saskatchewan and BC producers can sell the people in Saskatchewan wine and craft spirits, but not so in Ontario. Premier Kathleen Wynne made an announcement in August that she was looking into the issue, but as of yet, nothing has changed. As it stands, the only way to get BC wine in Ontario is to order it through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).
There’s very little in place to stop BC wine from being shipped to buyers in Ontario. There are no customs officers at the border, there are no tarrifs on interprovincial trade and Canadian money from BC is taken at par in Ontario. However, recent wine shipments sent via FedEx to Ontario were returned to a BC winery after FedEx was fined for sending BC wine to Newfoundland and Labrador.
At one point it was the 1928 Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act that stopped the flow of wine from province to province. Yes, you read that right; 1928. The law stated "no person shall import, send, take or transport, or cause to be imported, sent, taken or transported, into any province from or out of any place within or outside Canada any intoxicating liquor." The law dates back to prohibition and the temperance movement, both of which failed miserably.
According to the BC Wine Law website, “On June 28, 2012 that law was amended by Bill C-311. While the general prohibition remains in place, the Bill created a national personal use exemption for wine subject to applicable provincial laws. In June 2014, the federal government also amended the law to extend the personal use exemption to include the interprovincial shipment of beer and spirits. That amendment was effective June 19, 2014. However, the various provinces have not embraced the spirit of these changes and have created various barriers to interprovincial ‘direct to consumer’ shipments.”
So why didn’t Ontario jump on board with Saskatchewan in August and establish an interprovincial trade agreement on wine and craft spirits? Some stipulate it all comes down to money. When someone in Ontario purchases BC wines, they do so through the LCBO. The LCBO and the provincial treasury get their cut of the taxes. If laws were changed, and BC wine lovers in Ontario ordered direct, the taxes would be collected in BC.
We may never know the real reasons this trade barrier has not been demolished. Until it is, we all must wait while Premier Wynne “looks into the issue.”