The BC Government has just issued a new wine importation policy that reverses the progress of Bill C-311 since it prevents the inter-provincial shipment of wine direct to consumer (e.g. via e-commerce). Instead, the government has indicated that BC will follow Ontario's lead by introducing small personal exemptions that only apply to "in-person" importations of alcohol. The BC wine industry was looking for leadership from its government in implementing a policy that would allow wineries to ship directly to customers in other provinces. However, the BC government has dashed these hopes by implementing a policy which does not permit this, less than 24 hours after Bill C-311 was passed by unanimous vote at the federal level. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether the government means what it says in the press release. The responsible Minister was quoted by CKNW this afternoon as stating that wineries should be able to ship wine to customers in other provinces: "I think it's just another option for folks who are, let's say, in the Okanagan this summer, they go to a winery and, say, rather than having to drive the case of wine back to my jurisdiction, can you just send it to me? I have no problem with that." However, the press release issued by his Ministry this afternoon clearly states that "All provinces and territories that allow personal importation from other provinces restrict that importation to liquor that accompanies the person bringing it into the province". For wineries, the distinction is crucial. The point of Bill C-311 is to enable wineries to ship direct to consumers in other provinces and to expand their markets, not just to allow importation "on the person". Hopefully, this policy will be reversed quickly and the government will resume its full support of Bill C-311. In addition, the press release contains a number of factual errors:
- The press release appears to confuse "liquor board markups" and "provincial taxes". Liquor board markups are not taxes as they are not passed and approved by the Legislature. Any requirement to pay liquor board markups is not the same as a legal requirement to pay sales taxes.
- Many provinces have no laws dealing with inter-provincial importation of alcohol for personal use. Alberta's provincial laws specifically permit any amount for "personal consumption". The press release incorrectly states that all provinces restrict importation to "in-person" importation and that no jurisdiction allows for tax-free importations.
Update: Total confusion reigns as the press release says one thing and the Minister says that BC will permit shipment as opposed to "in-person" transport. See Latest Post on this Issue for More Information.