In the midst of a pandemic which has caused widespread economic pain for the Canadian wine industry, the SAQ (the Quebec liquor authority) has issued an information bulletin which threatens Canadian wineries outside Quebec with enforcement action if they direct ship wine to Quebec customers. The bulletin is located here: Sale and direct delivery of beverage alcohol products to Quebec. Apparently, this bulletin was also sent directly (in the form of a letter) to certain Ontario wineries.
It should be noted that the issues surrounding the interprovincial shipment of alcohol in Canada are complex and were the subject of a relatively recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, R. v. Comeau, which largely upheld restrictive provincial laws. However, the decision also indicated that provincial laws or rules that discriminate as between \”out of province\” and \”in province\” producers could be held to be unconstitutional. Quebec has such laws/rules in that it permits Quebec wineries to direct ship within Quebec but does not permit \”out of province\” wineries to do so. For more detailed information on the laws and rules related to interprovincial DTC shipment, wineries may wish to consult with a lawyer or, for more general information, subscribe to the Alca Winery Compliance Subscription that is available on our sister web-site.
The issuance of the bulletin by the SAQ is a disappointing development as the Canadian wine industry has been working on initiatives to open the country up to the interprovincial trade in wine for years (see Wine Growers Canada and FreeMyGrapes websites). Indeed, the provinces had committed to increase interprovincial access for the alcohol sector in an Action Plan stemming from the 2017 Canadian Free Trade Agreement and had formed a feasibility group to accomplish this. This action flies directly against the spirit of these efforts. At at time when the Canadian economy needs all the help that it can get, it is sad to see a provincial liquor board take an action that will suppress interprovincial economic activity and actively hurt Canadian wine producers in other provinces. Such actions would be unheard of in France where it is, of course, completely legal to ship wine from one part of the country to another. Unfortunately, it appears that the SAQ, and the Quebec government, is taking a narrow short-term view that will ultimately harm Quebec wine consumers.