As noted here earlier, the Canadian Government indicated in its Federal Budget 2019 that it would amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act ("IILA") so as to remove the federal prohibition on the shipment of alcohol between provinces. The actual text of the Budget implementation bill was released last night. As indicated, the Budget Bill carries through on what was promised. Section 3(1) of the current version of the IILA prevents the shipment or transport of any alcohol into Canada or between provinces unless the alcohol is sent to the liquor authority (liquor board) in the destination province. Amendments made to the IILA in 2012 and 2014 created a limited exemption from this prohibition if the alcohol was intended for personal use and if the provincial laws in the destination province permitted it. Few provincial laws were changed to allow for the exemption (see Shipping Laws Article).

The Budget Bill proposes a more substantive change. It changes the IILA such that it only applies to shipments coming into a province from outside Canada. In other words, inter-provincial shipments of alcohol are no longer subject to the IILA prohibition at all. The earlier exemptions are removed because of this change in approach. These reforms would mean that if a winery is making a DTC shipment, then it would no longer be subject to any federal restriction on the shipment itself. The customer in the receiving province might be subject to any relevant provincial laws on the possession of imported alcohol (the constitutionality of such laws was upheld in the recent Comeau case) once the alcohol was received, but the actual shipment between provinces would no longer be prohibited. This is a positive change which will be welcomed by the wine industry if the Budget Bill passes and the changes are brought into effect.

I note on a practical level, that if these changes are to proceed, the federal government will have to pass the Bill before the end of June, when the House of Commons breaks for a summer recess. This is the last scheduled sitting of Parliament before the next federal election. There is also a news release on this issue: Canada Acts to Eliminate Barriers to InterProvincial Trade in Alcohol.