B.C. wine industry rallying for a fight

B.C. wineries are pressing hard to see legal barriers against interprovincial shipping of wine and liquor across Canada changed.

Earlier this month, five small B.C. wineries were granted permission to bring their concerns to the Supreme Court of Canada in the R. v. Comeau case, the first court case where any winery in Canada has had an opportunity to address the legal barriers to interprovincial shipping of wine made from Canadian grown grapes.

Related: Canada’s Supreme Court to hear from small B.C. wineries

The Supreme Court will hear the case in early December, and organizers are asking the wine industry to rally behind the intervenors and support the drive to loosen shipping regulations.

Curtis Krouzel (50 Parallel Estate), Ian MacDonald (Liquidity Wines), Jim D’Andrea (Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery), Christine Coletta (Okanagan Crush Pad Winery) and John Skinner (Painted Rock Estate Winery) each own and operate vineyards and wineries that produce wine exclusively using 100 per cent B.C. -grown grapes. They also head a coalition of more than 100 small B.C. wineries from British Columbia challenging interprovincial shipping laws.

“I think we need to send a message to local, provincial and federal governments that consumers and the public care about the wine industry; that it is important to them and they understand the value of us, what we do and what we bring to the economy,” said Coletta. “I think that is a pretty important message to get out there.”

A Go Fund Me page has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/canadian-wine-for-all for those inside the industry and out to support the campaign. They’re also asking for people to show their support with the hashtag #CanadianWineForAll

“People contributing $20, $25 to a campaign indicates that they care,” said Coletta. “We need the public to let us know that they really care about what we’re doing.”

Besides getting the support for the idea of free trade across Canada for Canadian products, Coletta said they also want to raise the profile of Canadian wine.

“By that I mean wine that has the VQA label on it and is made from 100 per cent Canadian-grown grapes,” said Coletta.

Leanne Froese, co-owner of Town Hall Brands, said that the marketing agency would not have been started without the work provided by Canadian wineries.

“It employs 38,000 people, contributes billions to the Canadian economy and is a cornerstone of tourism. Wineries add richness to the culinary scene and buy local movement, and are a shining example of value-added farming and what can be achieved when we work together,” she wrote in a blog post.

These barriers pose a threat to wineries, who need national distribution direct to consumers to build a sufficient business for long-term survival. As such, the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Comeau will determine the fate of the B.C. wine industry for decades to come.

Shea Coulson, counsel for the five winery owners, said the aim is to inform the court about the negative impact on small wineries created by the interprovincial barriers.

The case started when Gerard Comeau, a New Brunswick resident, purchased 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor in Quebec and then drove home. He was given a $292.50 fine for violating New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act: “No person … shall have or keep liquor not purchased from the [New Brunswick Liquor] Corporation.”

Comeau is challenging the constitutionality of that provision, arguing that it violates the spirit of free trade between the provinces.

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