Bill to remove provincial barriers on wine gaining traction in Parliament

MP Dan Albas's private member's bill receives unanimous approval from Standing Committee on Finance

Employee Luke Whittall pours a sampling of meritage wine at the VQA wine shop at the information centre recently.  A private members bill by local MP Dan Albas to change the current laws regarding wine sales across provincial borders appears on its way to being passed by parliament.

Employee Luke Whittall pours a sampling of meritage wine at the VQA wine shop at the information centre recently. A private members bill by local MP Dan Albas to change the current laws regarding wine sales across provincial borders appears on its way to being passed by parliament.

You can practically hear the smile on Dan Albas’s face in Ottawa as he talks about the progress of Bill C-311, his private member’s bill to modify Canada’s archaic laws on shipping wine across provincial borders.

The bill has just passed through committee, and the rookie MP for Okanagan Coquihalla is eagerly awaiting the next step, when finance committee chair James Rajotte recommends the bill to Parliament.

“We had a really excellent panel for the last two sessions. A couple of people from B.C. were there, like Mark Hicken who owns winelaw.ca, he’s an expert in wine law and constitutional law. Harry McWaters from Summerland was there to give his testimony,” said Albas. “There was a lot of industry support for the bill. Not only do we have an all-party consensus forming, but industry is firmly backing Bill C-311.”

Wednesday, the Standing Committee on Finance voted unanimously to approve the bill and send it back to the House of Commons for third reading, which Albas hopes will take place in about 30 days.

“Bill C-311 and ending wine prohibition in Canada has cleared another parliamentary hurdle and is that much close to ending over 80 years of wine prohibition in Canada,” said Albas, whose bill seeks to change a 1928 law that makes it a crime to ship wine across provincial borders, other than by provincial liquor control boards. The fight to change the prohibition-era policy has gained ground in recent years, especially in B.C. with its rapidly growing wine industry.

“I think the law itself is archaic, I don’t think it should be a criminal offence to carry wine home after you have been on holidays,” said Bob Ferguson, co-owner and wine maker at Kettle Valley Winery, a small family winery that has been operating on the Naramata Bench for 20 years. “We’ve been talking about it for a long time, and it seems to be making some progress as it goes through committee. We are hopeful it is going to proceed.”

Though Bill C-311 is enjoying strong support, it isn’t passing through Parliament without opposition. The reviewing committee also hear from the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions, who are concerned that removing provincial barriers will hurt their revenues, some of which are used to help fund provincial health care and education.

“It was very clear that this is not something that is supported by liquor control boards, with the exception of B.C.,” said Albas, adding that the bill takes into account provincial jurisdictions. “The bill was written that if any particular province would like to see restrictions as to quantities, they are in their rights to do that. This bill actually clarifies that this is a provincial matter by removing the federal government from the way, and overall, I think that will help the industry.”

Ferguson understands the concerns that have been raised by the liquor boards about the effect on taxation, but doesn’t think it will amount to much lost revenue for the various provinces. The larger wineries, he said, already sell through the liquor boards; the changes would mostly help the smaller wineries, without enough production to take advantage of that system.

“It probably would only amount to a hundred cases a year for us. I don’t know if it would even amount to that. But it would be nice for people who come here, enjoy the Okanagan and enjoy the wines, not to be criminals to take the wine back home with them,” said Ferguson.

Albas takes it a step further, estimating there will actually be an increase in provincial revenues due to both PST and GST, and more economic activity like shipping, marketing and sales.

“It just won’t be collected by the liquor distribution board, and that, of course, creates an issue for them,” said Albas.

Having a private member’s bill receiving such wide support is an accomplishment for the rookie MP and former Penticton city councillor, who was elected to Parliament in 2011. He started working on introducing the bill last July after getting a lot of feedback about the problem during his “summer listening tour.”

“In the Okanagan Valley, we have well over a hundred wineries, the majority of them being small family wineries that may not have the production to sell through the liquor distribution boards. They live on the direct sales through their winery. This would allow that to happen,” said Albas. “We all want to see jobs, we all want to see economic activity. Canadians love their wine, consumers want to see more choice, so this bill is clearly a win-win for everyone.”

 

Just Posted

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden coming to Penticton in 2022

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

The South Okanagan Tim Hortons raised over $4,000 through the three day orange doughnut promotion with 100 per cent of proceeds going to to the Residential School Survivors Society. The owner of these locations matched the amount. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
South Okanagan Tim Hortons raises over $8K for residential school survivors

More than $4,000 worth of doughnuts were purchased over three days

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

Most Read