Speech on Easing Restrictions on Interprovincial Import of Wine

Mr. Speaker, I will provide some summary remarks. I support this bill and appreciate the hard work of members in preparing and bringing forward this bill.

The prohibition on interprovincial liquor importation is governed at the federal level by the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, the IILA, and, at the provincial-territorial level, by statutes that govern the importation, sale, transportation, warehousing and packaging of alcoholic beverages.

Bill C-311, which is an act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act for the purposes of personal use, proposes to amend the IILA by providing a new exemption to the prohibition on the interprovincial importation of intoxicating liquors, except for purchases made by provincial-territorial liquor boards, commissions or corporations. This bill would allow the importation of wine from a province by an individual if he or she brings the wine into another province for personal consumption. This importation would be required to be in quantities as permitted by the laws of that province or territory in which the wine is being imported.

Under current federal legislation, if an individual wishes to purchase wine that is available only in a province other than the one in which he or she resides, the individual must make the purchase through the provincial-territorial liquor board, commission or corporation and must pay the associated taxes, mark-up rates and other special levies on the alcohol. That is by way of summary.

In terms of some of the comments on this bill, I think the industry and the public consider the IILA administered by CRA, the Canada Revenue Agency, is the cause of the restricted trade. In reality, the combination of the IILA and the provincial legislation makes this trade illegal.

Pursuant to the IILA, all imports from one province into another must be made by the provincial liquor board or a private corporation designated by the province. This includes wine brought in by an individual from one province into another.

While the IILA does restrict interprovincial wine imports, provinces have the power to control the possession, sale, purchase and transport of wine within their respective jurisdictions. Provincial liquor boards impose a significant mark-up fee on wine produced or sold within a particular provincial jurisdiction. Most provincial legislations specifically allow a limited amount of wine for personal use to be brought into another province. For example, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario issued a news release in June of last year announcing a formal policy to permit up to nine litres of wine provided it accompanies the individual.

I know the hon. member who introduced this bill referred to the history, but I will add to it. The current law, which is section 3(1) of the IILA, stems from 1928 during the post-prohibition era when the various Canadian provinces were making the transition from prohibition to liquor board systems for liquor distribution. It created a restriction on both the transport of liquor across the provinces and provincial borders and the shipment of liquor between provinces unless the liquor was purchased by the liquor board in the destination province.

What we are looking for? I will go back to the bill. This bill would permit consumers to directly purchase wine in reasonable amounts for personal consumption, which is defined by each province and territory. It would address the legal issues related to interprovincial wine tourism and enable wineries to directly ship, including online, to consumers in provinces in compliance with provincial limits.

We support the bill as it stands, but we do have some suggestions for change as it moves forward. We support the matter of consumer choice. Canadians will certainly benefit from a greater selection of wine, especially smaller wineries across the country. The government needs to support the growing domestic industries, particularly in emerging wine-producing regions from Nova Scotia right across the country to British Columbia.

The Canadian wine industry is emerging as an internationally recognized cool climate wine producer, garnering an impressive list of awards and praise from many of the world's most influential wine critics. There are others that are onboard with the bill, including the Canadian Vintners Association, the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers and many wineries across the country.

I do want to make special note of British Columbia and the wine-making and wine-growing industry in our province. Vineyards, certainly in the interior of British Columbia, the Okanagan, Osoyoos, Kelowna and many other parts of the province, including Vancouver Island, which is certainly emerging as a wine-growing region, the Fraser Valley and pockets of the Fraser Canyon are becoming known for their wine or icewine.

There is also the idea of tourism and the importance of tourism in British Columbia as it relates to the bill, which would allow wine to be transported out of the province. B.C. is well-known for bringing in individuals from outside of British Columbia, from other provinces and territories, and also from other parts of the world. The United States, Europe and many other places around the world come to British Columbia for our fine wine and to enjoy what we have in that amazing part of Canada.

In summary, I will again lend my support to the bill. I strongly support the move to make an historical amendment to allow wine to be transported from province to province. I would like to see an amendment that would look at the labelling, which would include where the wine is made. That would enhance the bill.

Knowing where the wine comes from is quite critical. Consumers are not only enjoying wine, but they are becoming more sophisticated in knowing how the grapes are grown and where they come from. This is an important aspect that should be considered and included in the bill today.

Again, I thank the hon. member and previous members for their work on getting the bill to this stage.