MARKIN: Access to Canadian wine a hinderance

With Canada Day on Friday, it’s time to reflect on our patriotism.

With Canada Day on Friday, it’s time to reflect on our patriotism.

Specifically, our loyalty to Canadian wine, and our lack of country-wide access to all of the bottles produced in this country.

This week marked the fourth anniversary of the passing of Bill C-311, which amended prohibition-era legislation restricting the trade and transport of alcohol across provincial borders. Three provinces — Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and British Columbia — have upheld the spirit of this bill, allowing wines from other provinces, Canadian wine not imports, to enter their borders.

The amounts and minor details are different for each, but the concept is the same.

If I want to buy wine from Nova Scotia, where Canadian bubbly is gaining international attention, I can bring it to B.C. and not have to essentially “declare” my purchase to our liquor board.

Several challenges to these restrictions have been made. People have crossed borders with wine, and told the story of no authority stopping them.

Earlier this year, however, a gentleman crossed the New Brunswick-Quebec border with Canadian beer got caught, faced legal issues, and nearly triggered a constitutional crisis to challenge inter-provincial trade restrictions. Shipping and courier companies have faced fines and charges as well.

It was easier for me to walk out of airports into two European countries carrying almost a dozen bottles of B.C. wine, no question asked, than it was the last time I visited Ontario wine country; checking in to catch my flight, I was questioned about bringing eight bottles of Ontario wine home to B.C.

Many reports have been done on the positive impact opening provincial borders  to our own wine (and beer, and spirits, which have their own restrictions), including allowing online sales.

Organizations and individuals have presented at federal inquiries on internal trade. The hashtag #freemygrapes and its quiet-but-steady campaign has been in existence for four years.

As a recent Senate report states: “Let Canada’s 150th year end as the country began a century and a half ago: free of interprovincial/interterritorial trade barriers. It will make our great nation richer, both spiritually and financially. That is the best 150th birthday present that Canadians could receive.”

Save the date:

June 30-July 3, Penticton Rotary Ribfest:  Okanagan Lake Park. Ribs and more ribs.

July 7, Uncork the Sun:  Oliver Parks and Recreation (outdoors). Wine, live music, Top Dog Culinary Challenge.

July 8, Party in the Park: The Okanagan Falls Wineries Association gets together on a beach for wine and BBQ.

July 9, Similkameen BBQ King: Hosted by the Similkameen Wineries Association at the Grist Mill in Keremeos, vote for this year’s BBQ king or queen.

Allison Markin is the food and libations columnist for the Penticton Western News. She can be reached at and on Twitter @OkanaganTaste.


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