House of Commons Pulled Into Shipping Law Morass

Canada's outdated wine shipping laws were under the microscrope again today with no lesser body than the House of Commons pulled into the debate. It turns out that the House of Commons was planning to have a "wine tasting reception" for MPs and Senators later this year where they would compare wines from across Canada in order to select a house wine for the Commons. Wineries in BC were among those invited to ship samples direct to Ottawa. Of course, normally wineries can't ship out of province at all due to an ancient post-prohibition federal law which is still on the books. The law contains an exemption for the government but winery owners were understandably miffed when asked to do something for elected officials which the rest of us can't enjoy - the Vancouver Sun covers the story here. More coverage from the National Post here. Personally, I think it's great that the MPs and Senators want to sample Canadian wine - a comparison tasting of many Canadian wines is a fine idea. However, it doesn't leave a good impression when the elected officials are able to organize something which the rest of us are prohibited from doing. Maybe our elected officials should take a short break from non-confidence motions and think about changing the 1928 federal law which stops the rest of us from having similar tastings.

Time for Government to Exit the Retail Wine Business

I wrote an op-ed piece for today's Vancouver Sun in which I argue that it's time for the BC government to get out of the retail side of the liquor and wine business. I have really only glossed over the myriad of problems in this piece but suffice to say, I think that British Columbia is long overdue for sweeping reform of both its retail liquor and wine distribution system and the related regulatory framework. Simply put: our government could make more money, grow the industry and have more effective liquor policy if it adopts broad changes. It's time to bring B.C.'s liquor laws and retail system into the 21st century - and it's a perfect Olympic legacy project.

By the way and not surprisingly, the BCGEU's president, Darryl Walker, disagrees with me on these issues (which is fine). However, in a response on his web site, he labels me "a lobbyist". Just FYI ... I am not a lobbyist and have not been paid by anybody to advance my opinions. My opinions on reform of BC wine laws are solely motivated by the fact that I am passionate about wine and care about the wine industry.

Poor Regulation of Cellared in Canada Wines in the News

British Columbia's inadequate wine laws were in the news again this weekend as the "cellared in Canada" issue got prominent coverage on CTV News, BCTV, the CBC and in the Vancouver Sun. This story is an important one because it relates to a long standing practice where some of B.C.'s largest wineries sell imported wine with misleading packaging such that consumers think that it is B.C. wine. The LDB is complicit in this because they list and display these products as being from British Columbia when in reality they consist of almost all imported juice.


The full story on the cellared in Canada controversy is on my marketing site.

BC Wine Institute - VQA Retail Issues Heat Up

Ongoing issues between the BC Wine Institute and the operators of the VQA chain of retail stores have blown up yet again after the BCWI indicated that it intends to revoke the licenses of two VQA stores, Carol's Wines in Coquitlam and Arrowsmith Wine Shoppe in Parksville. The problems mostly arise from the patchwork nature of BC's retail licensing system which is long overdue for reform. Unfortunately, it looks like only government action in the form of a complete overhaul of the system will resolve these issues for the long term. The full story is here on my marketing site,

BC Budget: No News is Good News

As expected by many, the BC Budget for 2009 which was delivered yesterday did not contain any measures with immediately apparent impact on the wine industry. This was somewhat predictable since BC wine prices are now so high at retail that there really is no room for the government to try and extract additional revenue unless they reform the distribution system (more on that later). The one lingering issue is the implementation of the HST scheduled for next July. The combined HST rate on wine will be 12% which is actually 3% lower than the existing combined rates of 10% PST and 5% GST. As a result, there would be an actual reduction on the tax rates applicable to wine if the government does not act to increase retail prices by other means (such as increasing other fees or liquor board markups). The reduction in taxes is extremely small when compared to the usurious rates of liquor board markup (117%) and other fees. However, it will be interesting to see how the government handles the difference. Tax policy must be applied fairly and consistently as between imported and domestic wine. However, liquor board markup is currently not applied fairly so there is an interesting problem on the horizon. Maybe the government will just give consumers a break and let them have a 3% cut? Just wishful thinking.