Daily bite: Supreme Court upholds inter-provincial alcohol ruling

Free the beer

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Provincial trade barriers have been a hot topic and point of contention among Canadians for years, and with the recent “Free the beer” case ruling by the Supreme Court, a new wave of conversation has picked up, aiming to open up interprovincial trade.

This week, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court stated that it is the constitutional right of each province or territory to restrict the importation of goods across provincial and territorial borders—so long as the intent is not to punish other provinces. Among industries that have been lobbying for interprovincial barriers to be removed are Canadian wineries who have hoped to build the direct-to-consumer market. Currently, B.C., Manitoba and Nova Scotia are the only provinces who allow this.

While there are those who favour these barriers for health and protection from tobacco and cannabis, many see it as a tool for large government-run organizations like the LCBO to capitalize on their limited offerings to consumers.

The AGLC is more liberal, generally allowing more freedom in terms of pricing and selection for consumers than organizations like the LCBO and BCLDB, making it a draw for consumers across the country looking for specialized and unique products. Business owners like Jesse Willis of Vine Arts in Calgary are advocating for the removal of such barriers, declaring, “If [they]… allowed fair competition in an open market, there would be no reason for them to continue to fight for these protectionist policies.”

The demand for online wine clubs and subscriptions has been immense among consumers, and although B.C., Manitoba and Nova Scotia allow for direct-to-consumer wine sales, it is still quite limiting for Canadian residents to access wine from smaller local producers as well as products that are exclusive to particular provinces.

The Trudeau government is fighting for improved trade among provinces but it is ultimately up to those in favour of free trade across Canada to make their voices heard and lobby for the changes they wish to see. Willis continues to state that “We are respecting the [policy] and do not offer shipping out of province, but hope that one day, we will have open access to sell our wines across the country.”