Ontario Premier's Anti-Consumer Wine Stance

Ontario's lack of support for interprovincial wine shipping has hit the news recently due to Premier Kathleen Wynne's apparent adoption of an LCBO scripted anti-consumer position regarding interprovincial wine shipping. I have posted an analysis here on my companion site, LiquorPolicy.com. In addition, the Premier's stance has been roundly criticized by multiple news media reports including the following: Provinces Stomp on Consumers Ability to Buy Canadian Wine (Vancouver Sun op/ed); Ontario Won't Loosen Up Wine Importing Laws (Globe and Mail); Inaction on Ontario Wine (Toronto Sun); Who Wants to Limit Your Choice of Wine (National Post) and Open Borders for Wine Urged (Winnipeg Free Press). Hopefully, Premier Wynne will take note of the waves of protest and adopt a pro-consumer position sooner rather than later. After all, Ontario wine consumers are also voters ... and it looks like the next election in Ontario will be a close one.

BC's New Wine Industry Premier

Yesterday, BC's Premier, Christy Clark, handily won the by-election in the riding of Westside Kelowna making her the first BC Premier in decades to represent a wine industry riding. Westside Kelowna is home to many wineries including some of BC's most successful ones. Indeed, the previous MLA (who stepped down for Clark) was Ben Stewart whose family owns Quails Gate winery which is located in the riding. The election win is a good sign for the BC wine industry because wine industry issues will now be at the heart of the Premier's constituency. Indeed, it may well be that Clark is now the province's first real "Wine Industry Premier". The last BC Premier to hail from the Okanagan was Bill Bennett but his reign as provincial leader ended prior to the tremendous growth and expansion of the Okanagan wine industry which occurred following the inception of NAFTA in 1989. Premier Clark has already announced an overhaul of BC liquor laws (see New BC Govt Commits to Liquor Law Review) which is being led by Suzanne Anton, the new Minister of Justice, and John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform. In addition, the government has appointed Herb LeRoy as BC's Honorary Wine Envoy tasked with rallying support for interprovincial wine shipping.

One Year After Federal Shipping Law Reform, Prov Barriers Remain

June 28th is the one year anniversary of the unanimous passage of Bill C-311, which removed Canada's federal ban on the interprovincial shipment of wine direct to consumers (see: Canadian Wine Shipping Reform Becomes Law). The amendments created a national personal use exemption for DTC shipments subject to applicable provincial laws. I have updated my Shipping Laws Within Canada page to provide an up-to-date summary of my views regarding the legality of shipping wine to consumers in the the various provinces across Canada. Manitoba gets the gold medal for opening its borders completely. BC gets a silver medal for opening its borders partially. Unfortunately, none of the other provinces have publicly declared their support for "freeing the grapes". Instead, most are dragging their heels on reform in various ways with, in my opinion, various degrees of legal effectiveness. The award for worst behaviour has to go to Alberta ... which is stating that it is not open for DTC shipments despite the fact that its own provincial laws clearly state that it is legal (see: Alberta's Bizarre Position on Wine Shipping Law Reform). There's a good summary of the situation from the Winnipeg Free Press here: Manitoba Wine Laws Ahead of the Curve. The fight goes on ... please support FreeMyGrapes as it continues to press the provincial governments for the simple right to buy wine from other places within your own country. 

New BC Govt Commits to Liquor Law Review

Today's BC cabinet announcements by Premier Clark included commitments to modernize BC's "antiquated liquor laws" on a broad scale and with industry consultation. Suzanne Anton is the new Attorney General and Minister of Justice. Her listed responsibilities include the Liquor Distribution Branch, Liquor Licensing Branch and, in the government backgrounder, include "Begin consultations to modernize BC's liquor laws". In addition, John Yap has been appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General with his listed responsibility being labelled as "for Liquor Policy Reform". It is indicated that he will "Lead the stakeholder consultation on modernizing B.C.’s antiquated liquor laws and recommend improvements to the minister to take to Cabinet".

BC Premier's By-election is Wine Industry Riding

BC's Premier Christy Clark announced yesterday that the MLA for Kelowna Westside, Ben Stewart (whose family owns Quails Gate Winery), has stepped aside to allow the Premier to run in his riding. The by-election will be called shortly and will likely be held in early to mid-July. This decision bodes well for the BC wine industry because the Premier will then represent a wine industry riding in the Okanagan ... and wine industry issues will be at the heart of her constituency. In related news, CBC Kelowna is reporting this morning that Ben Stewart has said that he will now also lobby the Premier to modernize BC's liquor laws.