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  • Pandemic W(h)ine

    Can I get a refund for the year 2021?  The first week or so was even worse than 2020, so I am no longer interested in participating in 2021.  If you need me, I will be hibernating in my wine cellar and will emerge in 2022 when the world has hopefully returned to normal.

    While most of the news media is full of doom and gloom, there is one new piece of legislation that I am hopeful will pass.  Faithful readers may recall that way back in 2012, the federal government finally struck down a clause from the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, which forbade the transport of alcoholic beverages across provincial borders.  

    This was an old prohibition-era law that had been on the books since 1928, whose original intent was to stop bootleggers from smuggling alcohol into the so-called “dry” provinces.

    There was much rejoicing in 2012 when the federal government finally decided this law made no sense in the modern era, but the powerful provincial liquor monopolies were desperate to protect their own profits to the detriment of the boozing public, so quickly moved to enact provincial legislation to protect the cash cow of collecting tax on every bottle of booze in their respective province.

    In this age of COVID, I have been supporting our domestic wine industry by ordering case lots from several of my favourite BC wineries that do not have a retail presence in Alberta.  In past years, I would enjoy a weekend getaway to the Okanagan Valley, visiting the local wineries and bringing their wares home to stock up the wine cellar, but these pandemic times have shifted my winery purchases from in person to online shopping.

    Sadly, each provincial liquor monopoly has its own rules and regulations, so our struggling Canadian wineries can ship directly to consumers in some provinces but not others.  The LCBO in Ontario and SAQ in Quebec are perhaps the most restrictive, essentially forbidding any personal importation of wine from other provinces, in order to ensure that they get their cut of the tax revenue by forcing all sales through the provincial monopoly.

    Things are better for us in Alberta, with our provincial government allowing importation of wines from other Canadian provinces for personal consumption.  In years past, any wine had to be hand-carried across the border by the end consumer, but recent relaxations have allowed BC wineries to ship directly to consumers in Alberta, which I have been taking full advantage of.

    The same federal MP that killed the federal legislation restricting interprovincial liquor transport way back in 2012 is at it again, this time trying to accomplish the same thing for the patchwork of conflicting provincial legislation.  Bill C-260 had its first reading in the House of Commons last month, and proposes an amendment to the Canada Post Corporation Act, which currently forbids most direct-to-consumer winery sales, especially when crossing provincial borders.  

    This will be a welcome change for producers of wine, beer, and spirits all across Canada, as the patchwork of differing provincial legislation currently makes it easier for a BC winery to ship to Timbuktu than Toronto.

    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.  

    Should this proposed legislation become law, 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.

    Unsurprisingly, the Member of Parliament sponsoring this bill is from the heart of the Okanagan Valley, and will be a hero to his constituents if he is successful in opening up the rest of the Canadian market for online shopping at BC wineries.  Hopefully his past success in 2012 will see a repeat performance, and our struggling Canadian wineries will receive a much-needed boost in their cash flow as they have already missed the 2020 tourist season, with 2021 looking like it may be more of the same.  

    Do your part by supporting a Canadian winery on your next visit to your friendly neighbourhood booze merchant, or order a case directly from the winery!