FreeMyGrape’s Founder Wins Canadian Wine Champion Award

July 5, 2016 – Kelowna, BC – Congratulations to Shirley-Ann George on winning the 2016 Canadian Wine Champion award!  If there has ever been a champion for open borders to Canadian wines, it is Shirley-Ann. FreeMyGrapes and the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers was born from a personal frustration during a 2009 visit to the Okanagan. Denied membership in a BC winery’s club because she was an Ontario resident, Shirley-Ann decided it was nonsense and things had to change. In her working career, Shirley-Ann had fought interprovincial trade barriers. She knew it would be tough to rattle the cage of provincial liquor boards and their political masters, jealously protecting their wine selling fiefdoms and juicy financial cash flows. On the other hand, an egregious barrier needed addressing: time to bring the 21st century to Canada’s wine business and let Canadian consumers get more Canadian wine in a 21st century manner. And so, the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers and its website,, was born. This new consumer activism was a wake-up call for politicians and media. Suddenly, the stuffy arcane subject of trade barriers was sexy. “What do you mean I can’t take a bottle of wine to another province – I could go to jail for that? A 1928 federal law could make me a criminal for carrying a bottle of wine from Quebec to Ontario? Is this for real? Aren’t we one country and one market? C’mon, you’re kidding – right?” Alas Virginia, like Santa Claus, it was real. We know the outcomes of the campaign. Through a June 2012 federal amendment to the 1928 Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, interprovincial importation of wine for personal use became legal and “FreeMyGrapes” had realized step […]

By |July 5th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Nova Scotia Supports Canadian Wine Consumers

FreeMyGrapes applauds the Nova Scotia Government for opening their borders to permit inter-provincial wine sales and delivery, and in doing so, supporting stronger consumer demand for both Nova Scotian and Canadian wine. FreeMyGrapes is the initiative of Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers (ACWC), an independent, non-partisan, consumer group aimed at ensuring Canadians can buy Canadian wine directly from Canadian wineries. It was established in 2010, after years of frustration with the inability of Canadian consumers to buy direct from out-of-province Canadian wineries. Until today, only British Columbia and Manitoba had fully recognized the spirit of federal Bill C-311, which became law on June 28, 2012, effectively amending the 1928 Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA) and eliminating the federal criminal offence for transporting wine across provincial borders. Nova Scotia passed its enabling law in December 2012, and FreeMyGrapes has since been encouraging Nova Scotia to take the final step of implementing regulations to permit direct ordering and delivery from Canadian wineries to Nova Scotia residents for personal use. “I am so pleased to welcome Nova Scotia to the list of provinces that recognize that inter-provincial trade is good for the economy and consumers,” stated Shirley-Ann George, founder and President of ACWC and the FreeMyGrapes initiative. “Nova Scotia has a vibrant wine industry and Canadians should have better access to these products.” FreeMyGrapes strongly urges the remaining seven provincial governments to open their borders to Canadian wine and reduce internal trade barriers. It is not only good for the economy, rural communities and tourism, but widely supported by voters, as evidenced by a Harris-Decima survey that found 82% of Canadians believe inter-provincial wine barriers are unreasonable. “We strongly encourage Canadian consumers restricted from ordering Canadian wine […]

By |June 25th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Interprovincial wine woes not over

Oh my – what a tangled wine web we continue to weave. The interprovincial wine trade mess that we all hoped was en route to being finally brought into the 21st century through federal reforms in June 2012 to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA), is still with us. To recap, after IILA passed (unanimously in the House of Commons and Senate), British Columbia and Manitoba quickly followed suit, respecting the intent and direction of the federal law and amended their respective rules to allow the direct importation of wine for personal usage. Nova Scotia also made changes in law to allow the same, but we are still awaiting the regulations that will make this effective. Nearly two years later, two recent developments clearly illustrate that wine lovers have a long way to go in being able to get their favourite Canadian wine delivered direct to their door. Alberta, supposedly one of strongest “free traders” in Canadian Confederation, changed its rules – that had previously allowed for personal importation – to now prohibit the same. And most recently, Newfoundland laid charges against FedEx for shipping “contraband liquor” (BC wine) into the province. The case will next be heard in provincial court at the end of June. These developments indicate just how far Canada has yet to go to get beyond the restrict/control/stifle mentality over Canadian wine. Provincial liquor monopolies are still seen as sacred and paramount to common sense and increased trade within Canada. Yet, BC and Manitoba have had open borders for Canadian wine for nigh on two years and the sky has not fallen. The federal government, through Industry Minister James Moore, recently announced that it is (once again), going to attempt […]

By |June 9th, 2014|Blog|0 Comments

First farmers’ markets, then free my grapes?

There has been a timely and progressive announcement from the Ontario government on their Wine and Grape Strategy – a $75 million plan to support Ontario wineries. The program has direct, high level political support given the involvement of Premier Wynne and the new Wine Secretariat. The aspect that has attracted the most public attention is allowing wineries sell their products at farmers markets across the province (BC has made a similar announcement too). The upside of this announcement is that it gives wineries another much needed market opportunity. It is also a boost to wine tourism and economic opportunity, all of which are good for local and regional economies. The downside of the announcement is that the provision is restricted to products made from VQA approved varietals only. This leaves small wineries that don’t grow VQA approved varietals unable to take advantage of this new market opportunity. Perhaps a way will be found to accommodate these winery products so all local wines from all parts of Ontario can be made more available to consumers. Enhanced market opportunities should be the goal. Unfortunately, the strategy announcement was silent on the question of Ontario opening up its borders to direct delivery of Canadian wines from other provinces.This would have been a great opportunity for Ontario to demonstrate leadership and a commitment to open borders within Canada. In making the announcement on its Wine and Grape Strategy, the Premier was quoted as saying to the industry, “You’re more than just fruit growers and winemakers, you’re catalysts for tourism and for new business.” (Ottawa Citizen, December 17, 2013). Well, exactly Premier – it is great that you understand that, but think of how much more a catalyst the industry could be if […]

By |February 5th, 2014|Blog|1 Comment

More action needed to free my grapes across Canada

Later this year, we will mark two years since the passage of Bill C-311 at the federal level, the first step in opening provincial borders to Canadians who wish to purchase Canadian wine and have it shipped between provinces – to themselves for personal use. There have been some successes, but there is much more to be done to free our grapes. The good news? BC and Manitoba have opened their borders, and Nova Scotia has announced that they will open their border, although we’ve been waiting for months for the regulations. The bad news? All the remaining provinces refuse to open their borders to direct wine sales and shipments, many only allowing for a meagre amount to be “on your person” while crossing a provincial border. Even worse? Except for Quebec, the legal burden has shifted from the wineries (the “shippers”), to the consumers and the potential risk is substantial. For example, in Ontario, breaking the liquor act could result in a $100,000 fine, imprisonment for up to one year, or both. More work is needed — here’s what you can do: Our efforts have shifted to the laggard provinces and we still need your can help. We have launched an Action Alerts e-newsletter; sign up via the form at the end of this post, or by visiting this link. We’ll only send emails when there is a new development (less than a handful a year). If you live in AB, SK, ON, QC, NB, NS, PEI, NF, please send a letter to your MLA/MPP/MNA voicing your concerns and your desire to free my grapes. We’ve got sample letters ready to go. Join us on Facebook and Twitter and keep the conversation going with […]

By |January 10th, 2014|Blog|0 Comments

MPP Rob Milligan: private member’s bill supports Free My Grapes

In Ontario, MPP Rob Milligan’s private member’s bill has passed second reading. His office issued the following news release, and you can read the bill online. This is a step forward in having Ontario open it’s borders to Canadian wine; be sure to write your MPP in support of the bill. MPP Milligan’s “Free My Grapes” Private Member’s Bill Passes Second Reading  (Queen’s Park) – MPP Rob Milligan’s (Northumberland-Quinte West) Private Member’s Bill has passed second reading with all party support. Bill 98 entitled “An Act Respecting the Importation of Wine, Beer and Spirits from other Provinces” amends the Liquor Control Act to add a provision that permits individuals of legal age to import wine into Ontario from another province as long as it is for personal consumption only. “I’m thrilled that Bill 98 has passed second reading,” Milligan said. “The Ontario wine industry is the largest in Canada and will benefit from inter-provincial trade opportunities.” Bill 98 has received support from wineries throughout the province, Free My Grapes, and the Canadian Vintner’s Association. According to a Harris Decima study undertaken in June 2012 83% of Ontarians believe that they should be able to import wine from another province. “Bill 98 updates an 84-year old law and allows greater consumer access to wines across provinces,” Milligan said. “Stakeholder discussions revealed how mutually beneficial inter-provincial wine trade can be. For example, a Nova Scotia wine club would like to enter into a partnership with an Ontario-based winery were they reciprocally promote each other.” Milligan hopes that since Bill 98 received all-party support the governing Liberal’s will expediently call the bill for third reading. -30-

By |October 1st, 2013|Blog|1 Comment

How will freeing Canadian grapes change taxation?

Having now passed the one year anniversary of the passing of Bill C-311, there appears to be continuing confusion by a few (deliberate or otherwise) about exactly what the Free My Grapes efforts are about. It is not about evading taxes, it is not about evading licencing, it is not about undercutting regulation, it is not about undermining liquor boards. Free My Grapes is about ensuring Canadian consumers being able to directly access quality Canadian wines from Canadian wineries. Provincial and territorial liquor boards can never hope to carry all of the Canadian wines now available. Yet, the producers of these products, largely small, rural, family owned businesses, need better and direct access to a larger base of Canadian consumers to be successful. If they can do so, they sell more, pay more taxes, support wine and culinary tourism that in turn generates government revenues, employs more Canadians and foster our small business sector. These activities benefit everyone and what we do “chafe” about is the narrow-minded and outdated perspective still maintained in a few quarters of this country. The collective economic upside created can far outweigh any revenue cost that provinces think they may lose out (as has been proven in the US). It is about playing the “long game” not the “short” game. Thankfully, two provinces, BC and Manitoba, get it. Soon, hopefully, a third will too – Nova Scotia. We are now at 85 years since the federal legislation made it illegal to transport alcohol across provincial borders, 30 years since the advent of the Internet, 13 years into the 21st century and one year since Bill C-311 passed. It’s time to finally allow winery-to-consumer sales and shipment through out Canada.

By |August 19th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

#BCWine stops traffic

Wineries from the Naramata Bench in British Columbia decided to slow traffic down to support the #freemygrapes campaign, attracting waves and puzzled looks from passers-by in downtown Penticton, BC. See more photos on our Facebook page; below is the news release explaining their “tractor convoy”. The ultimate goal:  have BC Premier Christy Clark present her fellow premiers with gifts of Naramata Bench wine during the Council of Federations meeting next week in Niagara, where Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne — her province is currently “closed” to consumer shipments of out-of-province Canadian wine — plays host. In BC, consumers may ship Ontario wine to themselves for personal use. Ontario has yet to reciprocate. PENTICTON, BC – July 18, 2013: Traffic on the iconic Naramata Bench wine route went a little slower this morning as a colourful convoy of winery tractors held up traffic enroute to MLA Dan Ashton’s office on Riverside Drive in Penticton. Loaded with a precious cargo of wines that make up the Naramata Bench Wineries Association’s ‘Best of the Bench’ Collection, the contingent went with a clear request: Pressure the Provincial Premiers to remove the antiquated barriers to trade of BC wines within Canadian borders for once and for all. In the year since the passage of federal Bill C-311, only BC and Manitoba have put in place regulations and policies to actually allow for personal importation of Canadian grown and made wine into their provinces. Effectively this means it remains illegal for BC visitors to take wine home or have a case shipped to: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, PEI, Newfoundland, Nunavut, NWT, Yukon and Nova Scotia. Recognizing that the provincial leaders will be meeting during the Council of Federations in Niagara […]

By |July 18th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

NEWS RELEASE: One year later for Bill C-311

One year later – what are you waiting for? On June 28, 2012, the federal government rectified an eighty-four year old, prohibition-era law that made it a criminal offence for Canadians to carry or ship wine across provincial borders. Parliament’s support for Bill C-311 was unanimous and we thank all the parties in both the House and Senate for taking this important step towards freeing Canadian wine from this archaic legislation. FreeMyGrapes, a national non-profit founded by wine lovers who want access to all Canadian wines, also congratulates the leadership shown by British Columbia and Manitoba to permit their citizens to order wine directly from out of province wineries. Last December, we were hopeful that Nova Scotia would also become a leader in supporting Canadian wines when it passed enabling legislation, yet seven months later, the regulations are still in limbo. Hopefully, this situation will change soon. Unfortunately, the fears we expressed during the Parliament and Senate hearings on Bill C-311 have proven true. The federal legislation’s caveat “in quantities and as permitted by the laws of the latter province” has created a large I-can-do-nothing loophole. The latest update by Winelaw’s Mark Hicken highlights how eleven provinces/territories are still dragging their feet. While many have stated that they now allow individuals to physically carry a set amount of wine into the province for personal use, this policy change is of little value. We all know it has been a common practice for decades, with literally no enforcement. Adult Canadians want out-of-province wineries to direct ship to them, which was confirmed by a 2012 – Harris/Decima poll that showed 82 percent of Canadians believe they should be able to access wine from another province through online […]

By |June 27th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

What are you waiting for? #FreeMyGrapes now!

One year later, Canadian grapes still aren’t free. This Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the unanimous passage of Bill C-311, a private members’ bill, courtesy of MP Dan Albas, that was meant to “free my grapes”. It might interest Canadian wine lovers to know that, for the vast majority of the country, it is still illegal to ship wine — Canadian wine — to another province. As lawyer Mark Hicken remarked in a recent media interview, imagine if wineries from Bordeaux couldn’t ship wine to Paris. There would be a riot. But this is the situation we’re in, one year after the passage of the Bill commonly referred to as the “free my grapes” Bill. What’s the hold up? Each province is interpreting Bill C-311 in its own manner. Kudos to BC, the first province to open up provincial borders. You can bring a case back to BC, as long as its Canadian wine. Manitoba has stepped up, and changes are in the works for a couple of Maritime provinces. But, this is all open to interpretation. Each province is making its own rules. Frankly, several seem to be stuck in the Prohibition era, and have turned a blind eye to Bill C-311. This, despite a Harris-Decima poll that shows more than 80 percent of Canadians want provincial borders open to our own wine. Imagine, if you will, if it was illegal for Nova Scotia lobster to leave its home province. Or if Saskatchewan wheat was held up at the Alberta border. It’s up to the wine drinkers to take action. During this anniversary week, take moment to contact your political representatives and tell them it’s time to uphold the spirit of Bill C-311. […]

By |June 26th, 2013|Blog|1 Comment
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