Written by Mark Hicken Mark Hicken
Category: Latest News Latest News
Published: 04 October 2011 04 October 2011

Here is a link to Bill C-311, the Bill that, if passed, will amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act so as to create a national personal use exemption which would permit the shipment of wine between provinces direct to consumers. The amendment to IILA would add an additional exemption in s.3(2) of the Act so that the prohibition on inter-provincial shipment would not apply in the following circumstances:

the importation of wine from a province by an individual, if the individual brings the wine or causes it to be brought into another province, in quantities and as permitted by the laws of the latter province, for his or her personal consumption, and not for resale or other commercial use.

Here’s a short analysis of the effect of Bill C-311, if it is passed. What does Bill C-311 do?

It’s my strong belief that this is a reasonable compromise measure that should be supported by all aspects of the wine industry (see Dan Albas' sensible explanation here). Some have called for the complete abolition of the IILA and, personally, I would not be sad to see it gone but such a step would create dramatic changes that most provinces would oppose. The approach taken by this Bill is much less disruptive but it is significant enough that it will provide immediate benefit for Canadian wineries and consumers in a small segment of the retail wine market, specifically, those consumers who are looking for hard to find products that are unavailable locally.

The benefits of this Bill, if it is passed, are:

The above changes are sensible because they re-establish Canada as a free trade zone for wine (which is supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution anyway) and they provide consumers with a greater selection of wines to purchase within the country. This Bill will not appreciably affect the revenue that the provinces generate from liquor sales. The vast majority (well over 90%) of retail wine is consumed within a few hours of purchase. This Bill will not affect those sales at all because those consumers will not wait for the delivery of their wine or pay for shipping (usually at least $2-3 a bottle). In the U.S., which has had a similar system for many years, the experience has been that interstate (or interprovincial) shipment will only comprise about 1% of the total retail wine market. This Bill deserves our support and I encourage readers to go to where they can ask their MP to vote for it and ask their MLA/MPP to also provide support.