As usual, I have been thinking too much about the shipping law mess that Canada has by virtue of our 90 year old post-prohibition era law, the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA). From a consumer's perspective, the simple solution would be to repeal the law. That would open up inter-provincial trade for the wine industry and treat wine much like any other consumer product (except for the necessary legal restrictions on age etc...). However, there are practical problems in simply repealing the legislation, the most prominent of which are: 1) the IILA acts as a legal support for the various provincial liquor monopolies, and 2) the IILA also provides legal support to various preferential provincial policies that affect the wine and liquor industries.

One way to at least start fixing the problem would be to amend the IILA so that it basically mirrors the comparable U.S. legislation governing inter-state shipping. The Canadian law says that you can't ship wine (or any liquor) across provincial borders unless it is going to the relevant government or liquor board in the receiving province. This provision is now rather foolish because it assumes that the receiving province wants all shipments to go directly to the provincial government or liquor board. Because we now have private involvement in certain aspects of the wine business, this requirement is, in fact, no longer desirable for certain product going into British Columbia (imported wine destined for agents) and Alberta (shipments direct to consumers in amounts for personal consumption). By contrast, the U.S. law (the Constitution) says that you can't ship across state borders if the shipment results in a violation of the laws in the receiving state. If our law was changed so that it did the same thing (i.e. you can ship but not if the shiment results in a violation of the laws in the receiving province) then the shipping problem is fixed for BC wineries shipping to Alberta (because of their personal use exemptions). The situation for shipments to the other provinces would depend upon their provincial laws.

From the federal government's point of view, this type of amendment would mean that they had truly passed the buck on this issue to the provinces (which is, in fact, what was the original intention of the IILA anyway). This might prove an attractive option for the federal government politically. It's not an instant fix for all of the shipping issue facing the wineries but this approach would force the provincial governments to deal with the issue. To date, most provincial governments appear to have been steadfastly refusing to deal with this, deferring to the liquor boards to do so (which have an obvious conflict of interest). I would be interested to hear any thoughts on this issue.

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