Opinion

B.C. wines sales still have hurdles to clear

Okanagan wineries are anxiously awaiting pending legislation that could bring significant improvements to their bottom line

A private member’s bill from Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas will introduce amendments to federal laws that restrict the sale of Canadian wine across provincial borders. Bill C-311, which eliminates a 1928 Prohibition-era law, cleared the Senate this week after previously receiving unanimous support in Parliament. It’s expected to receive Royal assent later this month.

But it may still be a little early to pop any corks in celebration. Because even after Ottawa clears the way for wine to be shipped across provincial borders, wine sales will still be limited by a host of provincial legislation.

The provinces still need to establish their own exemptions to allow the personal purchase and shipment of alcoholic beverages across provincial borders. Earlier this month, B.C. announced its own provincial tax exemptions for alcoholic beverages, with residents now allowed to bring back one standard case of wine (nine litres) from another province without paying B.C. tax on it.

“Contrary to some public reports, Bill C-311 does not allow for the direct sale of liquor,” said B.C. minister Rich Coleman. “To allow this to happen, we need the co-operation and support of other provinces because Bill C-311 simply clarifies a province’s right to set limits to the quantity that can be imported and in what manner.”

And there is some question whether the federal bill will clear the way for online sales of Canadian wine. Allowing tourists to bring home a case of Okanagan wine will undoubtedly see financial benefits trickle down to the industry, but opening the door to online sales would increase those benefits dramatically.

So while the pending changes to federal regulations are a cause for celebration here in the Okanagan, more work is still needed to help B.C.’s wine industry tap into its potential.

 

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