Okanagan wineries to intervene in Supreme Court over trade barriers

A coalition of small Okanagan wineries will be in the national spotlight later this year when they fight for open borders before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Painted Rock Estate Winery, 50th Parallel Estate, Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery Liquidity Wines have been granted permission to bring their concerns to Canada’s highest court in the interprovincial shipping of liquor case R. v. Comeau.

It is the first court case in which any winery in Canada has had an opportunity to address the legal barriers to interprovincial shipping of wine made from Canadian-grown grapes.

Right now small wineries in B.C. are limited in national distribution due to inter-provincial trade barriers.

Winemakers say it’s easier to ship their wine to the U.S. than it is to provinces like Ontario.

READ MORE: BC reaches wine purchase pact with two other provinces

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All provinces except for B.C., Manitoba and Nova Scotia prohibit the shipment of Canadian wine from any other part of the country.

Shea Coulson, counsel for the five winery owners, said the trade barriers impede the financial viability of small B.C. wineries, “because British Columbia, luckily, has had a really good run since NAFTA in growing its wine industry and we’re now at almost 300 wineries,” he said.

“However the market here is limited by the number of people that live in British Columbia and we are reaching a saturation point.”

Sandra Oldfield, former CEO and winemaker at Tinhorn Creek Vineyard, has been advocating for open trade for more than a decade.

“We all have wine clubs or connect with people on a one-on-one basis during the summer during our tourism seasons… they go home, they want to order that wine one-on-one because they’ve made that connection with the person, and they can’t do that because it’s not allowed,” she said.

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

Oldfield has even gone to extreme measures to prove her point.

“I ordered a gun online because you can, and it was shipped to me — I think it was from Manitoba at the time — and you know, I couldn’t do the same with a case box of wine.”

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Wine advocate Sandra Oldfield shows how it’s easier to order a gun online from another province than it is a case of wine.
Wine advocate Sandra Oldfield shows how it’s easier to order a gun online from another province than it is a case of wine. Photo/Sandra Oldfield

Oldfield said consumers would also benefit from open borders “because they’ll be able to taste what we’re growing right here on our own properties.”

The B.C. wineries will make their case before Canada’s highest court in December.

WATCH: Americans want bigger chunk of BC wine industry 

Americans want bigger chunk of B.C. wine industry
Americans want bigger chunk of B.C. wine industry
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