The Alberta government has moved to reverse the recent progress on direct to consumer wine shipping laws in Canada by quietly amending s.89 of its Gaming and Liquor Regulation so as to create a distinction between wine shipped into Alberta from another province and wine that is personally transported back to Alberta with a traveller after a trip. Prior to the amendments, Alberta law quite clearly stated that Alberta residents could have wine shipped from other provinces in amounts for personal consumption. The Gaming and Liquor Act and Regulation specifically allowed shipment through the combined effect of section 86(3) of the Act and section 89 of the Regulation, both of which read as follows:
Act s.86(3): An adult may import into Alberta liquor of a kind and up to a quantity that is permitted under the regulations.
Regulation s.89: For the purposes of section 86(3) of the [Gaming and Liquor Act], an adult may import from another province liquor for the adult's personal use and consumption.
The new version of section 89 of the regulation changes the wording from the earlier version and makes the importation "subject to the policies of the Board". Here is the new section:
89. For the purposes of section 86(3) and (4) of the Act, an adult may import liquor purchased in a province or territory other than Alberta for personal use or consumption in Alberta subject to the policies of the Board respecting the importation of liquor.
The Alberta liquor board (AGLC) has now also issued an information sheet "Personal Importation of Liquor from Other Provinces", which while not explicitly stating that they do not permit shipment, indicates that they only permit liquor to be brought from another province if the liquor "accompanies the individual". It is not clear whether the above changes are legally effective because s.86 of the statute refers only to the "kind" and "quantity" of imported liquor being set by regulation. It does not empower the Board to make these decisions or to distinguish between types of imported liquor. In addition, there is likely a good argument that such an action would be unconstitutional in any event as it would both violate s.121 of the Constitution Act (which establishes a free trade zone for Canadian produced product as between the provinces) and infringe upon the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction over interprovincial trade. As a result, there are now some complicated legal issues as to whether the AGLC can effectively reverse the language in the Act and Regulation through the use of a policy statement. In addition, it is now theoretically easier for Alberta consumers to purchase wine and have it shipped to them from the United States than from British Columbia.
I have updated the Shipping Laws information page to reflect this unfortunate development. In my view, and regrettably, Alberta continues to act against the will of Albertans and other Canadians on this issue (see earlier article: "Alberta's bizarre position on wine shipping law reform").