Canada's Supreme Court Misses Opportunity to Remove Restrictions on Direct to Consumer Wine Shipping
The Supreme Court of Canada issued its ruling this morning in a case challenging restrictions on interprovincial trade and declined to remove barriers to allow winery direct shipping to customers across Canada. In a case that was specific to beer, the court said provinces have the right to restrict trade for a number of reasons.
Miles Prodan, President & CEO of the British Columbia Wine Institute, told Wine Business Monthly the industry will continue negotiating with individual provinces, saying, "We’ve been fighting this for a number of years and will continue. ... We find it ironic that we are one of the only wine producing countries in the world where we can’t sell wine directly to our countrymen."
The British Columbia Wine Institute expressed it's dissappointment in a news release, saying:
The British Columbia Wine Institute and its members today expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling on Her Majesty the Queen v. Gerard Comeau. The case challenged restrictions on interprovincial trade, an issue the BCWI and the Canadian Vintners Association (CVA) has been working on for over a decade.
This morning at 9:45 a.m. (EST) the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on Her Majesty the Queen v. Gerard Comeau. The ruling states the following: Section 121 does not impose absolute free trade across Canada.
"The Court's ruling today is disappointing for the BC wine industry." Said Miles Prodan President & CEO of the BCWI. "We will continue our work both directly and through the CVA with the federal / provincial / territorial governments' Alcoholic Beverages Working Group, industry, governments and the provinces to remove the barriers and allow winery direct shipping to customers across Canada."
"We respect the Court's rulng but are disappointed at this missed opportunity to remove interprovincial trade restrictions," said Dan Paszkowski, President & CEO of the CVA. "Removing restrictions would have opened the door to allowing consumers to order wine for direct delivery to their home from any Canadian winery located in any province. We call that Direct-to-Consumer, it is something nine out of 10 Canadians believe should be permitted, and we now eagerly await the provinces making this choice available to their citizens."
In October 2012, Gerard Comeau of New Brunswick purchased beer and spirits in Quebec and drove back to New Brunswick. He was charged with possessing liquor purchased from outside the province in quantities that exceeded the province's prescribed limit, an offence under section 134 of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act. The trial judge held that section 134(b) of the Liquor Control Act constitutes a trade barrier (violating section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867) and dismissed the charge against Mr. Comeau. The case subsequently made its way to the Supreme Court.
"It's important to recognize that interprovincial trade barriers affect a range of industries, including wine." Says Paszkowski
Unfair interprovincial trade barriers have impeded Canada's wine industry growth and prevented consumers from purchasing the Canadian wines of their choice.
"This morning's ruling is disappointing for our industry. Every wine producing nation in the world has direct sales within its own country" said Tony Stewart, Proprietor & CEO of Quails' Gate Winery. "Canada needs to correct this so that we can start to create a level playing field with the rest of the world."
Canada's wine industry had seen the ruling as a way to open the doors to direct-to-consumer wine purchases across the country, something consumers believe should be done.
Direct-to-Consumer wouldlead to important growth for the country's highest value agricultural industry. Indeed, free interprovincial trade would positively impact the economy across the country. Industry research shows that for every $1.00 spent on Canadian wine in Canada, $3.42 in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is generated across the country.