BC Eliminates "On-Person" Alcohol Importation Limits

As of July 8, 2019, the BC Government has eliminated the limits on the amount of alcohol that may be brought into BC from another province so long as the alcohol is personally transported with the traveler (e.g. bringing back wine with you after a trip to Alberta). The previous limit for wine after such a trip was 9 litres (one case of 12 bottles). The new rules have no limit on amounts for personal consumption. The amended regulation is here: Order in Council 399/2019. I note that these rules do NOT apply for alcohol that is shipped from another province. The limits on such transactions, which would include e-commerce sales, remain at zero unless the alcohol is 100% Canadian wine purchased direct from a winery, in which case the limit is also an unlimited amount for personal consumption. 

BC Opens Grocery Shelves to Imported Wine

The BC Government has amended its laws so as to permit the sale of imported wine on grocery store shelves. A limited number of grocery stores hold licenses for wine sales in BC. The previous government's policy only allowed for the sale of BC wine on those shelves. However, the earlier policy caused a WTO trade challenge by numerous countries (which challenge has been commented upon here in many posts). The new policy comes as a result of a side letter to the CUSMA trade agreement under which the BC government committed to eliminating the earlier restrictions.  See policy directive here: Allowing Imported Wine on Grocery Store Shelves

Ontario Rolls Back Federal Shipping Law Reform (Temporarily?)

The Ontario Provincial Government has brought new liquor regulations into force that effectively block (at least temporarily) the recent federal shipping law reforms (see earlier article). The recent federal reforms removed the 91 year old federal prohibition on the interprovincial shipment of alcohol. As a result of those reforms, the only restrictions on interprovincial alcohol shipment are now any applicable provincial laws. Up until now, Ontario's provincial laws did not specifically address the importation of alcohol into that province (the LCBO had issued a "policy" on this matter but a policy is not a law). However, the Ontario government has now introduced a new regulation (Importation of Liquor into Ontario) that prevents the importation of alcohol into Ontario from other provinces unless the alcohol is imported by the LCBO or under its authority. This change will make it illegal for Ontario consumers to import wine directly from wineries in other provinces (since the importation would not be authorized by the LCBO). Nevertheless, on an interesting and potentially positive note, the new provision is scheduled to be repealed on January 1, 2020. Presumably, the Ontario government is intending that prior to that time, they will introduce additional changes or systems such that the blanket prohibition is no longer needed. 

Federal Interprovincial Shipping Restriction Eliminated After 91 Years

On Friday, June 21st, Bill C-97 (the 2019 Budget Implementation Act) was given Royal Assent, which means that the Bill became law in Canada. One of the sections of this Bill amended the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act so as to completely remove the federal restriction on the interprovincial shipment and transport of alcohol which has been in place since 1928. As a result of these changes, there is no longer any federal prohibition on the movement of alcohol between provinces. Customers of wineries (or of other alcohol shippers) may still be subject to any relevant provincial laws on the possession of alcohol that has been imported from another province but the federal law is no longer. This is a very positive step in the long fight to reform Canada's post-prohibition shipping restrictions. More analysis in the days and weeks ahead.

Agricultural Regulatory Change May Affect BC Wineries

This regulatory update covers a recent policy change that may affect BC wineries. The policy change relates to the permissible uses for alcohol production (i.e. wineries) on property that is contained in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). 

ALR Policy Change. In December 2018, the Agricultural Land Commission posted a new policy that covers the operation of alcohol production facilities (including wineries) that are located on ALR land ("Policy L-03 - Alcohol Production Facilities in the ALR"). This applies to many, if not most, BC wineries. The new policy can be read and downloaded here: ALC Policies and Bylaws. The change that wineries may wish to review is the addition of new criteria relating to the allowable "development area" for a winery on the particular parcel of ALR land upon which the winery facility is located. The new policy permits a maximum of 5% of the parcel to be used for the "development area". The calculation only includes the parcel on which the production facility is located and does not extend to other land owned or leased by the winery. The definition of development area is very broad and includes all buildings, roads, parking areas and landscaping. For example, if a winery is located on a parcel of ALR land that is 10 acres, it would be permitted a development area of 0.5 acres. Many existing wineries may be off-side with this new rule. While I would not expect the ALC to enforce the policy change in respect of existing facilities, this change may affect new winery projects and any proposed changes to existing wineries. 

BCLDB Manufacturer Info. I also note that the BCLDB has now added a section to their web site that provides information and documentation on some of the policies that they administer that relate to BC manufacturing: Info for BC Liquor Manufacturers. Particularly, there is now publicly available information relating to the categorization of wineries in BC as either "commercial" or "land-based". For example, the sales agreements for both types of wineries are now available as well as the land-based winery criteria and direct delivery information (see BC Manufacturers - Sales Agreements). This is a positive step in respect of the availability of this information to industry (although I note that the 2018 BTAP report, which I chaired, recommended that all manufacturer regulation be centralized at the BC LCRB).