Ottawa gets rid of inter-provincial liquor restrictions, provinces still need to negotiate deal
The B.C. government is applauding the federal government’s legislation to get rid of restrictions to ship beer, wine or spirits across provincial borders. But the provincial governments still need to put forward a framework to make it legal.
“This is really good news for British Columbians. We have a number of very famous wineries across the province that Canadians want to have access to directly,” said Attorney General David Eby.
“So, in terms of export markets for craft beers, wines [and] distilled products, it could be very good news for British Columbians.
“This will be the beginning of a discussion between provinces about taxes that are imposed. Say B.C. wants to ship to Ontario — what taxes would be imposed by Ontario on that when it arrives there?”
Once that legislation passes, provinces and territories will need to make their own changes in order for direct-to-consumer shipping to be allowed across Canada.
According to Ottawa, all federal impediments to alcohol moving across borders within Canada are now gone, and the only remaining barriers fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Those barriers can only be removed by the provinces and territories.
“For too long, Canadians have been frustrated by the restrictions on the transportation of Canadian beer, wine and spirits between provinces and territories,” said Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc.
“Removing barriers to trade between provinces and territories fosters economic growth, reduces the regulatory burden on our small and medium-sized businesses and creates good, middle-class jobs across the country.”
The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled in 2018 that a law preventing residents of New Brunswick from stocking up on alcohol from other provinces is constitutional.
The case started in 2012, when Gerard Comeau was stopped by the RCMP at the New Brunswick-Quebec border with large amounts of beer and some spirits he bought in Quebec. He was fined nearly $300.
But instead of paying, he fought it from a court in New Brunswick all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. That ruling found the provinces ultimately have the jurisdiction.
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Eby is hoping that once all the provinces sit around the table, there can be a conversation about easing some of those rules.
“This will have the biggest impact on producers opening additional markets and consumers in British Columbia who enjoy products from other provinces, I think that’s where the opportunity is,” Eby said.
“We will have exchange agreements probably under this new development from the federal government with other provinces that will arrive allowing direct to consumer shipments, and could result in products that are cheaper than they otherwise would have had to pay assuming, they could have even gotten them under the current system.”
Lawyer Shay Coulson says he was some reservations about the legislation because it does not change the provincial laws. The expert in liquor law is pushing for free trade across Canada.
But Coulson warns that although a change could mean more access to product, it will likely have very little impact on price.
“The provinces control the pricing and I can tell you that if they come up with a revenue sharing agreement and they’re actually is a national framework for liquor they will be managing the price for that and I don’t expect it to go down,” Coulson said.
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