Comeau Case - Appeal to be Heard by SCC

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal of the decision in R. v. Comeau (the inter-provincial alcohol transport case) on December 6th and 7th. The hearings are scheduled for 930 am (Eastern - 630 am Pacific) on each day. The SCC website contains all of the factums (arguments) that have been filed for the appeal. In addition, the site will host a live webcast of the hearings on each day.

US Files Second WTO Complaint on BC Grocery Model

The United States has filed a second WTO complaint regarding the BC "wine in grocery" retail model which appears to be designed to re-start the clock on negotations. This action is reviewed in this Globe & Mail article: US Takes Canada to WTO Over Wine Retailing.

New BC Minister Responsible for Liquor

BC's new NDP government was sworn in yesterday. The minister responsible for liquor is David Eby who is the Attorney-General (and who is also responsible for ICBC and lotteries). He is the MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey and was previously the opposition critic for liquor issues.

BC Wine Trade Dispute Expands

As reported earlier in numerous posts, the BC "wine in grocery" model has triggered an international trade dispute with numerous countries joining the challenge. It is now apparent that the dispute has expanded beyond the original complaint to include a long list of preferential policies as well as those from other provinces. A couple of documents (trade deficit comments and NAFTA comments) filed in relation to the U.S. dispute indicate that the U.S. industry wishes to include challenges to B.C.'s policies related to grocery stores, liquor board markup exemptions, direct delivery, VQA rebates, distribution system advantages, farmers' markets, and NAFTA's retail store exemptions. The policies of other provinces are also included, particularly those of Ontario and Quebec. As such, the dispute has now extended to issues far beyond the original grocery issue - and it would seem likely that the other countries may also raise similar concerns. 

In addition, the new U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, recently indicated (see video here starting at the 1 hour 4 minute mark) that he considered this to be a "very serious" and "extraordinary" problem for which there was "no justification". He also indicated that he was "very pro-enforcement" and would either refer the dispute to a full WTO dispute panel or would include it in the upcoming NAFTA re-negotiation. This topic will be the subject of a presentation by myself as part of the Wine Talks forum in Penticton at Okanagan College on Monday evening at 6 pm.

U.S. Triggers NAFTA Re-Negotiation

The U.S. Government, through newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, has started the process of re-negotiating NAFTA by delivering a notification letter to Congress. Talks could begin as early as August. The re-negotiation of NAFTA could have consequences for the BC wine industry because NAFTA has, up until now, included language that allowed BC (and other provinces) to provide preferential treatment for domestic wine to a certain extent. Specifically, an allowance was made for a limited number of "preferential" retail licenses selling only BC wine. This exemption became contentious in the past couple of years when the BC government converted freestanding VQA store licenses to supermarket licenses and also auctioned off additional "BC wine only" supermarket licenses. Those actions prompted a WTO challenge by a number of trade partners including the U.S., the E.U., Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. While wine issues are unlikely to be at the top of a list of NAFTA grievances, it would seem likely that those issues and complaints will now become part of these negotiations.