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Canada Shipping Law Update: 69% Open?

Bill C-311 ushered in a new era of Canadian wine shipping law on June 28th, just over 2 months ago. I have just updated my earlier article "Shipping Laws on Wine Within Canada" to provide a summary of developments to date and to include a chart showing my interpretation of the state of DTC wine shipping throughout the country (there are differing interpretations on this to which I have provided links in the article). Here's the short summary of some remarkable progress in a short period of time:

  • Both Alberta and Manitoba had pre-existing provincial laws that permitted the interprovincial importation of wine for their residents when Bill C-311 came into effect. As a result, these provinces have been open for both winery and retailer DTC shipments since June 28th. Note: I am aware that CALJ and AGLC have been making statements that Alberta is not open for shipment, only for "personal importation". In my view, this is not a reasonable interpretation of existing Alberta law.
  • Ontario's laws are silent on the interprovincial importation of wine. It is my view that this results in Ontario being open for both winery and retailer DTC shipments on the basis of the legal principle "that which is not prohibited is permitted". The LCBO has issued a contrary "policy statement" which, in my view, has no legal authority.
  • British Columbia has amended its laws to permit the possession of unlimited quantities of wine imported from other provinces but only if the wine is 100% Canadian wine purchased direct from a winery. So BC is open for winery DTC shipments but not for retailer shipments.
  • Nova Scotia announced last week that its government would change its laws sometime "this fall" to permit DTC shipments. It is not clear yet whether that includes both winery and retailer shipments.
As a result of the above, and if you accept my interpretations, then 5 out of 10 provinces with 69% of the Canadian population will be open for DTC winery shipments ... tremendous progress. However, the industry is waiting with trepidation to see what the Ontario government will do. If it follows the spirit of Bill C-311 and either does nothing or introduces supportive provincial laws, then the 69% number will stay intact and hopefully grow. However, without populous Ontario, that number drops to 30%. Of course, related enforcement and jurisdictional problems remain ... which means that some wineries have decided to ship regardless of the above. Regardless, an open Canadian wine marketplace will continue to provide great benefits for food and wine culture across the country: cheers to the DTC revolution in Canada!