EDITORIAL: B.C. pops cork on wine

Latest move by the B.C. provincial government to start the process of freeing up trade in wine between Canada’s provinces applauded.

We have to applaud the latest move by the B.C. provincial government to start the process of freeing up trade in wine between Canada’s provinces.

It was, perhaps, naive to have thought that once the federal government eliminated their 1928 prohibition on shipping wines between the provinces, consumers would be able to freely ship their favourite wines between provinces.

Instead, jealous of their prerogatives, many provinces responded to the eagerly awaited change, either with regulations nearly as restrictive as the now defunct prohibition-era law, or by setting up committees to study what they should do.

Even B.C., where both the ruling liberal party and the opposition NDP had spoken out in favour of eliminating the federal prohibition, government responded to the news that parliament had passed Bill C-311 with regulations limiting the quantity of wine a person could bring into the province, and outright forbidding internet sales and shipping.

That changed yesterday, when Rich Coleman, minister responsible for liquor, announced that B.C. was opening its borders to tariff-free direct shipping of wines for personal consumption, as long as they were grown and produced in the shipping province. The province can only regulate incoming shipments, so B.C. wineries are still unable to ship to other provinces; while it may have take a few weeks — really, moving very quickly for government — B.C. has boldly stepped away from the pack.

“Today, we encourage other jurisdictions to take immediate steps to reciprocate by opening up their borders and allow all Canadians to order wine over the Internet,” said Coleman. “British Columbia is prepared to take the lead on opening up the Canadian marketplace for our world-renowned B.C. wineries.”

We can only hope that B.C.’s leadership in this area will encourage other provinces to recognize the realities and opportunities of living in an wired world and begin to lower the barriers on their sides of the border.