Almost eight months after new legislation allowed thirsty Canadians to import beer and spirits from other provinces, a federal cabinet minister visited a Penticton brewery Friday to officially lift the lid.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to make a formal announcement of it, so now it’s up and running and everybody knows,” said Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay during a press conference at Cannery Brewing Company.
She was in the city to re-announce amendments to the Prohibition-era Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act that were passed as part of an omnibus budget bill in June 2014.
Those amendments cleared the way for provinces to remove internal trade barriers to allow Canadians to have beer and spirits for personal consumption shipped to their homes regardless of where they live. So far, however, only B.C. and Manitoba have made the necessary changes, with Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia close behind.
Findlay, the Conservative MP for Delta-Richmond East, is working with other provinces to speed up the process of creating a single Canadian market.
“We’re a big nation, but there’s no reason why we can’t see ourselves as one national economy. We want to break down those trade barriers, not just in this industry, but in many industries,” she said.
Similar amendments to federal legislation regarding the interprovincial sale of wine took effect in 2012.
Thanks to those changes, direct-to-consumer sales from wineries increased by 20 per cent last year, a boost worth about $70 million, according to Josie Tyabji, chairwoman of the B.C. Wine Institute.
“Our industry continues to pressure other provincial governments to take down their borders and permit direct-to-consumer shipping for all products that are grown and manufactured in Canada,” she said.
Cannery Brewing Company owner Patt Dyck will also join the fight, but isn’t worried about new competition from out-of-province beer makers on her home turf.
“Not a bit,” she said.
“For us, the more great beer there is the better. We’d like to show off our stuff, and I’m sure (out-of-province competitors) would like to show off theirs.”
Conservative MP Dan Albas, who led the campaign to ease the interprovincial flow of alcohol, said the 20 per cent increase in wine sales shows B.C. manufacturers can hold their own.
“We should never be a afraid to compete,” said the representative for Okanagan-Coquihalla, “whether it be on the world stage or here at home.”