End Of An Era

Your intrepid liquor reporter is giddy with joy, and maybe just a wee bit of bewilderment, as the government finally did something right.

It’s true that your humble narrator has shown no love for our new Premier’s willingness to roll back the federal legislation of .08% to .05% blood alcohol content, believing it is ineffective in making our roads safer, and possibly even a veiled attempt to revive the long-dead spirit of Nellie McClung, the firebrand leader of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union that delivered our province into the darkness of Prohibition from 1916-1924.

However, her counterparts in Ottawa seem to be decidedly more forward-thinking.  That’s right, gentle reader, the Canadian Parliament recently passed Bill C-311 into law, which now allows interprovincial trade for Canadian Wines.

After the usual amount of political grandstanding, the bill received unanimous support from all parties, and received royal assent at the end of June.

This means your intrepid liquor reporter will no longer be a lawbreaker when bringing home a case or three of delightful new discoveries from the wineries of the Okanagan Valley.

Many readers will be shocked to hear that it was ever illegal to transport wine from one province to another, especially in this enlightened day and age.

Surprisingly, the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act is a holdover from 1928, way back in the dark days of Prohibition, and was still on the books.  The original intent of the law was to stop bootleggers from smuggling alcohol into the so-called “dry” provinces.

Like many outdated laws, this one made no sense in the modern era, but the powerful provincial liquor monopolies tried hard to keep this law on the books to protect their own profits to the detriment of the boozing public.

Fortunately, public opinion was overwhelmingly supportive of removing these antiquated trade barriers, which made it easier for a BC winery to ship to China than to Calgary.

BC wineries have been shipping directly to Alberta consumers on the sly for many years now, but now the shipping can be done on the up-and-up, without any wink-wink-nudge-nudge shenanigans on the part of the savvy consumers who knew how to skirt the law.

This is great news for Albertans like your humble narrator, who have a special fondness for wines from small BC wineries who simply don’t have the volumes required to meet the demand requirements for a provincial liquor board.  For the dozens of small wineries that sell only from their own cellar door, this now opens up their customer base to encompass the entire country, instead of just those in their home province.

This long-overdue change opens up the Canadian market to allow small wineries to provide online sales of their wares to all Canadians.  This will be felt strongly in BC, where fully a third of the visitors to local wineries are from Albertan tourists.

Until now, those scofflaw Albertans were filling up their cars with BC wines to enjoy at home, and either not knowing or not caring that a Prohibition-era law actually forbade them from transporting wine across provincial borders.

Ontario wineries will enjoy similar upswings in their online sales, with their wine-loving Quebecois neighbors no longer needing to make the long drive across the border into Ontario wine country to find those hidden gems not carried in the Quebec liquor stores.

Your humble narrator has already placed a few online orders from small BC wineries that only sell directly from their tasting room, and the cases arrived in just a few short days.

On a less fortunate note, this new law only affects wine, but not beer or hard liquors.  So, it is still illegal for visiting Vancouverites to pick up a case of beer from the Wild Rose Brewery in Calgary to enjoy when they get back to BC.  Ditto for the Albertan who picks up a bottle of Whisky from the Glenora Distillery on Cape Breton Island while on vacation.  As you can imagine, with the lack of border controls between Canadian provinces, these laws are impossible to enforce, and are largely ignored by the Canadian public.

Let’s hope that the good example set by reducing interprovincial trade barriers for wine will soon trickle down to beer and spirits as well.

About the author

Nick Jeffrey

Nick Jeffrey

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