Federal budget suggests Liberals may help 'free the beer,' wine
Bottles of wine are packaged at Grey Monk Winery in Kelowna, B.C., Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019 7:27PM EDT
Advocates of removing trade barriers that prevent citizens from moving more than small amounts of alcohol across provincial borders say they are cautiously optimistic about a line in Tuesday’s federal budget.
The budget states: “To facilitate internal trade, the Government intends to remove the federal requirement that alcohol moving from one province to another be sold or consigned to a provincial liquor authority. Provinces and territories would continue to be able to regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol within their boundaries.”
Derek From, staff lawyer at the Canadian Constitution Foundation, tells CTVNews.ca that although “the devil is in the details” the proposal “sounds very promising.”
At present, the prohibition-era Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act states that liquor can’t cross provincial boundaries “except such as has been purchased by or on behalf of, and that is consigned to Her Majesty or the executive government of, the province into which it is being imported.”
This is likely the law the Liberals are planning to change, according to From.
“Best case scenario is a restaurant in downtown Toronto that wants to have access to a really nice wine in B.C., but it’s not on the shelf in any of the stores in Ontario” will be able to “just get online and order it and have it directly shipped to them,” he said.
Dan Paszkowski, president of the Canadian Vintners Association, says he believes the Liberals intend to let consumers order wines from other provinces directly to their homes, rather than going through a provincial government agency like Ontario’s LCBO or Quebec’s SAQ.
“If you ordered a case of wine from British Columbia it (currently) would have to go through the LCBO,” he told CTV’s Power Play. “With this, you wouldn’t have to go through the LCBO -- and hopefully avoid the tax.”
From said he believes the case of Gerard Comeau, whom the CCF defended at the Supreme Court of Canada, brought the interprovincial trade barriers to the public’s attention.
Comeau was fined $292.40 in 2012 for transporting several cases of beer and some liquor into New Brunswick from Quebec. He fought the ticket all the way to the supreme court and lost. The court said that provinces have the right to incidentally burden free trade with laws that have other valid purposes like protecting health or safety.
From said the change would be a win for producers and consumers. “There’s no one who doesn’t benefit,” he said.