Friday, December 10, 2010

The Law is a Ass

Buying wine in one province and bringing it into another province is illegal.

You read that right.  A federal law (the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act) that dates back to 1928  - just as many jurisdictions repealed prohibition - makes it a crime to transport alcohol across provincial boundaries. Unless, of course, you’re the provincial government’s own monopoly, in which case it’s OK. (That was the point of the law: to strengthen provincial liquor monopolies)

Now, I don’t know anyone whom the Crown has ever charged with this crime. And looking at the number of vehicles with Quebec license plates at Ottawa’s LCBO locations (and Ontario-plated vehicles at the SAQ in Gatineau), there’s not much of a deterrent to this common cross-border criminality.

Not that I’ve ever done it, of course.

But it's a bad law:  every law that is ignored by both citizens and law enforcement is a bad law.

It gets worse.  It’s also illegal for a winery in one province to ship its wine directly to a customer in another province. Heard about those great wines in BC? Want a few bottles? Not available at the LCBO? Sorry, you’re SOL…unless you buy it privately by the case through the LCBO (at their option, they don’t have to do it). There’s that monopoly again.

In a time when purchasing goods is just a click away, it’s way overdue to strike down this outdated law and one MP is leading the charge to wipe out a piece of it. Ron Cannan, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country, has tabled Motion 601 in the House of Commons to allow Canadian consumers to purchase wine directly from Canadian wineries.

A group that calls itself the Alliance for Canadian Wine Consumers has launched a grassroots write-in campaign at  They make it easy for you to join the fight by asking your own MP to support Cannan's motion.  Check it out.

Because the proposed exemption only covers the interprovincial sale of wine directly from Canadian wineries to Canadian consumers, the change won’t fix the ridiculous problem of criminalizing all cross-provincial-border shopping for wine.

But it’s a good start.

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