Did you know that B.C. and Ontario wines regularly win
international awards, including at competitions in France, Britain,
California and Switzerland? Have you ever had the opportunity to
taste a B.C. award-winning wine, like an ice wine or Pinot
If you live east of Alberta, you probably haven't.
That's because with over 250 licensed wineries producing 100
per cent B.C. wine, only a handful of labels make it into retail
stores and restaurants east of Alberta.
The Canadian wine industry contributes $6.8 billion annually to
the national economy, according to a 2013 report. Yet for most
Canadians, unless they have visited the wine regions in B.C. or
Ontario, they are likely unaware that the Canadian wine industry
produces world-class wine because of long-standing trade
But the problem is being perpetuated by some players more than
others. While B.C. has encouraged open exchange with Ontario and
other provinces, allowing B.C. residents to purchase Ontario wine,
Ontario hasn't been so quick to reciprocate, even though
Ontario wineries have gone on the record in support of opening
provincial borders for wine sales.
Interprovincial trade barriers continue to make it exceedingly
difficult to sell wines outside of the province they are produced
in, and many Canadians have an easier time purchasing international
wines than wine produced one or two provinces over. In many other
wine-producing regions, this problem would be unheard of —
imagine a French citizen living in Burgundy being told they
couldn't legally purchase a wine from Bordeaux — the idea
would seem laughable. Here in Canada, the reality is that consumers
are limited in the degree to which they can support their own
domestic wine industry.
In 2012, the federal government passed Bill C-311 which amended
archaic restrictions in the 1928 Importation of Intoxicating
Liquors Act. Honouring the intent of the legislation would increase
consumer interest in domestic wine and support the entire Canadian
wine industry, strengthening its presence domestically. The
amendments should have greased the wheels of exchange and made it
easy for consumers to purchase wine across provincial borders
without ever leaving their home province and for wineries to
broaden their market.
To date, only B.C., Manitoba and most recently Saskatchewan have
aligned with the legislation and progress overall has been slow. A
widely held belief is that Ontario is the key to national
co-operation; once Ontario gets on board, the other provinces still
holding out will do the same.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has stated her intent to review
the matter but no commitments have been made. While officials out
of Ontario insist the issue is more complicated than supporters of
open trade realize, critics argue that the resistance is little
more than reluctance to lose the taxes associated with provincial
liquor sales conducted with the LCBO.
On the other hand, wineries say the price mark up the LCBO
creates is a disincentive for consumers, sometimes almost doubling
the cost of a bottle of wine, discouraging interest in Canadian
wine instead of fostering a wine culture in a province with so much
Beth McMahon, vice-president of government and public affairs
for the Canadian Vintners Association, noted previously that
experience in the U.S. has shown there can be a huge benefit with
little hit to governments. In regards to Internet sales McMahon
said opening wine trade between states broadened the market for
producers and consumers and supported the industry as a whole and
accounted for one per cent of total sales — not much of a
sacrifice for governments since wineries are geographically
positioned to reinvest profits locally.
With open trade expected to benefit producers across the country
— including Ontario — and bolster the industry that
reinvests into those same provinces, the question remains: When
will Ontario support consumers in supporting the Canadian wine
Originally published by TheProvince.com
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