A Step Towards Modernization: The Potential Reform of Federal Liquor Laws

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In a hugely important moment of alacrity for our members of parliament, Ron Cannan, Member of Parliament for Kelowna Lake Country has tabled a motion in the House of Commons to reform the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to allow for interprovincial shipping of wine.

The exact wording is:

M-601 — November 25, 2010 — Mr. Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country) — That, in the opinion of the House, the Canadian wine industry, the Canadian tourism industry and Canadian consumers would benefit from an amendment to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to allow any person to import, send, take or transport Canadian wine into any province or territory directly from a winery, liquor board, liquor commission or similar outlet for the sale of wine located in any other province or territory within Canada for consumption by that person and not for resale, further distribution, sale or for any use other than personal consumption

This is a huge deal for many reasons. First, wineries in BC and Ontario would finally be able to ship wine to customers in other provinces, helping them improve the diversity of their customer base. This will ultimately have the impact of growing the industry.

Second, the language of the motion suggests that customers in one province will be able to buy Canadian wine from either a liquor board or private store in another province for personal use. This would not only allow consumers access to a much wider variety of selection, but it would also put pressure on the jurisdictions with higher liquor markups to reduce prices in order to compete with the liquor boards and private outlets in other provinces.

Third, the motion, if tabled as a bill and passed, creates a possibility that this could extend to wines other than Canadian wines. If consumers get used to buying Canadian wine online, and private retailers and wineries start getting innovative with this new legal space, then demand for interprovincial shipment of non-Canadian wine across interprovincial borders could ensue.

Fourth, it would not be hard to extend this language to include Canadian beer, not just Canadian wine. BC’s craft brewing scene is growing exponentially these days. Easy access to a national market would be a good thing for both our local brewers and any brewers in other provinces. It could potentially be the beginning of a craft brewing revolution in Canada. Of course, this is hopeful thinking for a law that is a mere chrysalis right now. But, the potential is huge.

This is potentially the first step in a major reform of the laws governing wine in Canada and an important step to modernizing the rules governing the industry in this country. We will now have to wait and see if this motion becomes a bill and eventually a law – which is a long and complex process with many barriers. For now, this is welcome and very important news.

I recommend writing your local MP to express support for this motion. The more letters the better chance this will actually become law.


  1. Weston
    November 30, 2010

    Does the wording open up a can of worms [good way] to ship wine across the board from the states?

  2. Shea
    November 30, 2010


  3. Dianne
    December 1, 2010

    How does this affect shipping home made wine or wine made with a non-profit liquor club? Wines are often shipped out of province to various competitions

  4. Shea
    December 1, 2010

    There is no way of knowing what the final language of this motion would be if made into law. There is debate and several readings in the house, etc. before any of that happens. And, there is no case law to tell us what anything means yet! So, while this may impact what you mention, it is too early to tell if it will and, if so, how.

  5. Blanca Huff
    December 23, 2010

    Does the wording open up a can of worms [good way] to ship wine across the board from the states?

  6. Shea
    December 24, 2010

    Unfortunately it does not.

  1. Free Our Beer Tidbits - Ontario, B.C. and Alberta | Free Our Beer - [...] liquor laws and allow direct purchasing of wine from wineries by consumers.  There’s a post over at the Just…

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