This Saturday marks the second anniversary of Canadian Wine Day. Many citizens across Canada will be celebrating with a bottle or two of their favourite Canadian wine. They will be toasting to the growing success of the Canadian wine industry. This is also a good time to reflect on how the industry has grown since the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement; and also the lack of progress we have had as Canadians with a common free trade zone within our own country.
Twenty six years ago when the Canada United States free trade agreement was signed, there were some within the wine community who believed Canada could not compete with California based wines and in some cases threatened to tear out vineyards. Fortunately others saw opportunity and with the benefit of hindsight we now know that our Canadian winemakers can and do produce some of the finest wines in the world. We now have established world class wine regions in Niagara, Okanagan, Prince Edward County and the Annapolis Valley to name a few with more up and coming. The wineries in these regions create not just wine, but jobs, tax revenue and wine tourism. We should celebrate this success.
Unfortunately odds are you will not find many (if any) of these Canadian made wines in your local liquor store. Yet you will have no trouble finding wines from USA, Australia, Italy, France, Argentina, Chile, Spain and New Zealand. Try finding wine made in Nova Scotia or Quebec - you might have better luck locating VQA wine made from a small family run British Columbia or Ontario winery, but chances are you will come up short. The reality is our current Government monopolized liquor retailing system does not work well for small Canadian family run wineries. This is part of why 7 out of every 10 bottles of wine sold in Canada are made outside of Canada in spite of the fact that Canadians vintners make some of the world’s best wines.
June 28th is the two year anniversary of Bill C-311 the “Free My Grapes Bill” receiving royal assent and ending the decades old prohibition era ban on transportation of wine across Provincial borders. Bill C-311 was specific to allow consumers to purchase wine either directly in person or online to have the wine shipped directly to your home (provided the use is for personal consumption and not commercial resale). With the exception of British Columbia and Manitoba, all remaining Provinces and territories oppose free trade in Canada wine. Saskatchewan as an example is currently challenging the Province of Quebec for market access on behalf of Saskatchewan oilseed producers yet Saskatchewan continues to oppose free trade in wine. Meanwhile the Government of Newfoundland Labrador who depend upon carriers like FedEx to ship fresh NL seafood across Canada have launched litigation against FedEx for delivering BC wine. The Alberta Government is quietly bringing in regulations to prevent direct to consumer shipping to appease demands from private liquor store operators who oppose competition.
Trade barriers like these continue to exist in many sectors of our Canadian economy. James Moore, the Canadian Minister of Industry has kick started an effort to revise the current agreement on internal trade, hoping to grow our economy through reduced red tape and fewer internal trade barriers.This effort should be commended and it behooves all Canadians to encourage their provincial governments regardless of stripes to ignore the powerful status quo and support internal free trade for a stronger Canada. On June 28th, raise a glass of fine Canadian wine, to celebrate that ours is a great country built on opportunity, hard work & sacrifice- and note it pairs well with free trade.
In addition to his weekly MP Report. the Dan in Ottawa blog is another resource for residents of Okanagan-Coquihalla. Chronicling Dan’s personal experiences as he travels to Ottawa and throughout the riding as your MP.
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