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Friday, June 8, 2012

Bill C-311 will expand Canadian wine market--and packaging opportunities for printers--even further

Several of my recent columns for PrintAction have discussed the growing markets for wine, beer, and alcoholic spirits in Canada and the innovations in packaging that are both helping to drive them and creating new opportunities for printers. This week another development signals further commercial growth for wine:  Bill C-311--a private member's bill ending the restrictions on carrying wine across provincial borders for personal consumption--passed third reading in Canada’s House of Commons with unanimous support.  Now it heads to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass.
The bill was introduced last October by Conservative MP Dan Albas, who represents the federal riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla in the heart of British Columbia’s wine-producing territory.  "We should be trying to take down these barriers to make it as easy to sell to someone in Alberta as it is to sell to someone in China," Albas told CBC News after the bill passed Wednesday night.
Since the prohibition-era Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, it has been illegal in Canada (with a few exceptions) to carry alcohol across provincial borders.  The new bill would allow people to do so, although only for personal use, as well as allow Canadian vineyards to ship wine by post or courier to customers in other provinces.  Small wineries have long complained that the current interprovincial barriers prevent people from legally taking home a few bottles from their favourite vineyards out of province.  
Although wine can already be shipped between provinces for commercial sale, the shipments are only permitted through the provincial regulatory and marketing bodies for alcohol, such as British Columbia’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).  Thus many smaller vineyards say they are left out of the process because they don't produce enough product to interest the provincial regulators.
While passage of Bill C311 will help alleviate small wineries’ concerns, it won’t eliminate all provincial restrictions.  For example, regulators in British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and the Yukon still limit the amount of alcohol their residents can bring from other provinces for personal use to:  one case of wine, four bottles of spirits, and a combined total of six dozen beer, cider and coolers.