NPD leader Dix pours pressure on federal wine regulations

NDP leader Adrian Dix has added his voice to the growing numbers calling for changes to federal liquor regulations preventing wineries from shipping wines directly to buyers in other provinces.

NDP leader Adrian Dix announced he is calling for changes to wine laws while he was in Penticton this week.

NDP leader Adrian Dix announced he is calling for changes to wine laws while he was in Penticton this week.

NDP leader Adrian Dix has added his voice to the growing numbers calling for changes to federal liquor regulations preventing wineries from shipping wines directly to buyers in other provinces.

During a recent visit to Penticton on his Anti-HST tour, the provincial NDP leader said that the laws needed to change to allow wineries an opportunity to be more competitive, especially the smaller wineries.

“Under this rule small and mid-size B.C. wineries, who face difficulties in getting shelf space in provincial liquor stores, cannot really make online ordering part of their business model,” said Dix. “I am hoping all parties will work together to change it. It wasn’t raised at the premier’s conference, I don’t think, but I am hopeful the provincial government will continue in an effort to see that changed.”

Dix adds that it’s not a big partisan issue for him; he just want to see the 1920s era law changed.

The 1928 Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act forbids wine from crossing provincial borders except when it is received by a provincial liquor board.

Removing this barrier, which disproportionately affects smaller wineries, involves amending the statute with the consent of all the provinces.

“It’s a federal and provincial issue – it’s not the politics that is the most important thing, it’s getting the change now. That’s why I am putting my shoulder to the wheel and if the Liberals want to join me, I am all for that,” said Dix.

Dix and NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham will be approaching both the federal ministers of national revenue and agriculture about the importance of revising this legislation for the Okanagan region. They’ll be joining other prominent government leaders, like Kelowna Lake Country MP Ron Canaan, who recently reintroduced a private members bill proposing an amendment to the act.

“Removing this interprovincial trade barrier is a win-win for Canadian wine producers and Canadian consumers,” said Cannan. B.C. Agriculture Minister Don McRae also issued a press release pushing for a review of the regulations as are both the B.C. and Penticton Chambers of Commerce.

Dix hopes the swelling support for changing the law will result in change, though he cautions there may be other factors in play.

“It could be one of those issues where everyone thinks it should change, but there is someone, some where who’s interest is to keep the law in place,” he said. “That’s why I am drawing attention to it. I think if we keep the pressure on this time, with the momentum that we have, we are going to see a change happen.”

Dix said the governments have been talking about it for too long; he plans to keep pressure on both levels of government to try for change by the end of this year.

“If I were premier, it would be an issue I would be leading with everywhere. It is an important issue here, equally with the tree fruit question. In that case the province has just been negligent and that is why I am continuing to raise the issue,” said Dix, who is also pushing a plan to see better government support for fruit growers. “If they want to take my plan, if they want to take credit for my plan … I say feel free, but let’s see the changes now.”