October 12, 2017 9:22 pm

B.C. wineries prepare to challenge inter-provincial sales restrictions

B.C. wineries are preparing to go to court against inter-provincial sales restrictions they say are unfair.

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
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Dozens of small wineries in B.C. are gearing up for a court decision that could help them keep out of the red.

Five winemakers are intervening on behalf of about 100 others in a Supreme Court case which they say could determine the success of their businesses.

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Their lawyer Shea Coulson said the B.C. wine industry has done well in the province, but are being unfairly prevented from selling their product out of province due to competing provincial liquor acts.

“We’re now at many hundreds of wineries and the market here is getting saturated,” Coulson said.

“It’s difficult to sell the volumes of wine that they need to sell within the domestic B.C. market only. And so the only way that the wine industry is going to grow for small producers is to open up Canada.”

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Winemakers are challenging those restrictions, which Coulson said they feel is unfair — particularly since they are more stringent than for product shipped south of the border.

“One of the problems is that it’s easier to sell to the United States today from B.C. than it is to sell to Ontario. Wineries are starting to look at selling internationally, but the problem is that they’re never going to reach the same level of volume.”

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Currently, wineries are only allowed to ship their products to customers in B.C., Manitoba and Nova Scotia because of provincial regulations.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear the case in December.

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