Bob’s Blog

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|0 Comments

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

The way forward?

Bob’s Blog On February 19th the Government of Ontario, now under the new leadership of Premier Kathleen Wynne, came out with its Throne Speech, entitled “The Way Forward”. What a perfect opportunity missed for the new Premier and her government to signal a new way forward on tackling the interprovincial barriers on wine trade. With Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia having recently appointed a special envoy to lobby other provinces to open up their borders to the direct delivery of Canadian wine to consumers, and with the Province of Nova Scotia having signaled their intent to follow a similar course, what a perfect time for Premier Wynne to have shown leadership. The Throne Speech could have indicated that she would be looking at how Ontario could meet the spirit of Bill C-311, and direct her officials and the LCBO to work with the wine industry to make progress and find a “way forward”. Unfortunately, the Throne Speech was silent. The Premier did indicate that the Council of the Federation, all of Canada’s Premiers and leaders of the territories, will be meeting in wine country, Niagara on the Lake, this summer.    This will be another opportunity for Ontario to show some leadership and start the process to dismantling the needless barriers that restrict the opportunity for Ontario consumers to enjoy the wine products of other provinces. It was almost humorous that Premier Clark of BC, a day or two after Kathleen Wynne won the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party and became Premier, indicated that she would be “legally” providing some BC wine to Premier Wynne as a pointed encouragement for Ontario to join the lead of BC, Manitoba and NS in opening its borders […]

By |February 26th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Wine consumption growing worldwide

Bob’s Blog There has been interesting news from the wine world in recent days. Recently, Xavier de Eizaguirre, the Chairman of VinExpo (the world’s largest global wine and spirits exhibition) highlighted key results from a recent study on world wine production/consumption patterns. For Canada, the study predicts a 17 percent increase in sales by volume 2011-2016. From 2007-2016, this would be a 34.7 percent increase in Canadian wine consumption. That same study also predicted continued growth in Canadian wine production to 2016, as new wineries start and existing wineries increase their output. The current estimated volume for 2012 was 5.65 million 9L cases, rising to 6.1 million 9L cases by 2016. However, imported wines will continue to dominate the Canadian market, a situation that Canada’s current wine distribution system doesn’t help. On a world wide basis, the study showed wine consumption growing by 10.27 percent from 2007 to 2016. Growth in Canadian wine consumption is clearly running well ahead of that average. Outside the Canadian context, most notable is the explosive growth in wine consumption in China. From 2007-2011, it leapt by almost 144 percent, and another healthy increase is predicted through to 2016. Faced with market constraints at home and burgeoning opportunities abroad, some Canadian producers are spending time in China fostering sales and to its credit, Niagara producer Pillitteri just announced that it would be selling its wines in up to 25 stores in China. BMO Economics has also recently noted the increased Canadian production capacity and growing Canadian wine consumption (up by 69 percent between 1995 and 2011). In addition, last week, Norm Beal of Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery predicted that the 2012 Ontario vintage could be one of the best ever […]

By |February 15th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

The long road to freeing your grapes

Bob’s Blog In 1970, a song entitled “The Long and Winding Road” appeared on the Beatles’ album Let It Be.   If the Free My Grapes (FMG) campaign was to adopt a theme song, how appropriate this title would be. FMG has been in existence since autumn 2010, and it has certainly been a long and winding road to where we are today.   From its first press release in November 2010 to where FMG is two years later, the twists and turns of the road to success have been equally exhilarating, frustrating, enlightening, discouraging  and satisfying.  At the start of the campaign, the prospect of action to remove internal trade barriers to the movement of Canadian wine from producing provinces directly to consumers in other provinces was daunting.   Provincial liquor boards were resolutely opposed, an archaic piece of federal law (The Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act) made it a criminal offence for consumers to take any beverage alcohol across a provincial boundary without going through their local liquor board, and politicians at both the federal and provincial levels said change was not possible.   Two years on, as we approach 2013, much has changed.  Diligent work by the Canadian Vintners Association, provincial wine industry groups, individual wineries, FreeMyGrapes and, most importantly, wine consumers created positive change.  Federal Bill C-311 amended the IILA to permit the inter-provincial movement of wine for personal use.   Two provinces (BC and Manitoba) have shown leadership and opened their borders to the free movement of wine –excellent.  Another province (Nova Scotia) is on the verge of taking action — good.  Some provinces have loosened their procedures to allow for the on-person transportation of wine from one province to another (eg, Ontario and […]

By |December 18th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Bill C-311 Passed

Bob’s Blog All lovers of Canadian wines cheered when the federal government’s Bill C-311 passed into law in late June 2012.  Now, 5 months later, where are we?  What’s happened to date and what has to happen next? There is good news on some fronts, so-so news on others and unfortunately, still a bunch of laggards who continue to drag their heels. Three cheers (as we raise our glasses) to BC and Manitoba who have shown leadership and moved decisively to open their borders quickly.  A cheer too for Nova Scotia’s Minister of Finance who on November 21, 2012, introduced Bill 143 into the provincial legislature. The Importation of Wine for Personal Use Act  looks set to open that province’s internal barriers.  Hopefully, when all the details are known, it will match the pace set by BC and Manitoba.  Moreover, let’s hope that this move by Nova Scotia will encourage the recalcitrants in other provinces to get their collective butts into gear and take steps to reflect the intent and spirit of the federal legal change. Saskatchewan had a perfect opportunity to take action with the 70+ change made to their liquor laws on November 20th.  While the province will now allow consumers to bring twelve 750mill bottles into the province on their person, they have not seen fit to allow personal importation via common carrier.  A small measure of progress but a missed opportunity for Saskatchewan to step up to the bar on behalf of their wine consuming citizens looking to be able to purchase great Canadian wines from across the country.  Kudos to the province though for the changes which will allow patrons to bring their own (commercially produced) wine into restaurants – […]

By |November 26th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments
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