Wine Culture Magazine

The Kettle Valley Steam Railway travels past Summerland’s Dirty Laundry Vineyard. Wine Growers British Columbia photo

The “political motivation” behind the Alberta government’s recent move to restrict direct-to-consumer importation of B.C. wine into the province remains unclear, according to the organization representing B.C.’s wineries.

Last week, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis sent letters to B.C. wineries, highlighting wineries’ practice of shipping B.C. wines directly to Alberta consumers. The agency said the practice is “in contravention of provincial legislation,” and in retaliation, it would not accept shipments of the wineries’ product to Alberta stores until the direct-to-consumer shipping stopped.

But in a press release issued Wednesday, president and CEO of Wine Growers British Columbia Miles Prodan says B.C. wineries are not breaking any laws, and the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis legislation only governs the actions of people within the province.

“Currently AGLC jurisdiction is limited to regulating persons and activities within the province. The Alberta laws governing DTC Shipping are all designed to regulate consumer activities – their authority does not extend to BC manufacturers exporting wine into the province,” says Prodan.

“A working free-trade relationship between Alberta and British Columbia is imperative to the economic wellbeing of the entire country.”

AGLC appears ready and willing to take offending wineries’ bottles off Alberta store shelves, although it’s not clear why.

“While we are still unclear of the political motivation behind the recent AGLC letter, it is disheartening for our local growers and producers, who have already suffered great financial hardships over this past year,” Prodan says. “We are concerned of being targeted once again for political gain that has nothing to do with our industry.”

Alberta legislation currently only allows the interprovincial transport of alcohol for personal consumption to be personally transported, eliminating shipping as an option. And while a 2018 Supreme Court decision found provinces had the right to restrict purchases that didn’t go through provincial licensing agencies, the Wine Growers of BC contend that Alberta’s legislation only governs those in Alberta.

Prodan notes the B.C. wine industry has been willing to charge and remit the provincial tax on B.C. wine if Alberta were to set up a similar regime that’s already been set up in Manitoba. While the federal Bill C-311 permits Canadian wine to be delivered from another province free of barriers or tariffs, only B.C., Manitoba and Nova Scotia have allowed their residents to do so.

A recent poll conducted by the Canada Vintners’ Association found that 85 per cent of Albertans support interprovincial direct-to-customer wine shipping.

“[Wine Growers British Columbia] and its member wineries are working with both provincial government representatives to determine the root cause of the trade dispute and find a resolution that works for all parties,” Prodan says.

—by Nicholas Johansen, Castanet

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