This past week the BC Government announced a new initiative to further build on and support our growing British Columbia wine industry.
The new regulations will allow all British Columbians to freely order 100 per cent Canadian VQA wine directly from wineries in other Canadian provinces.
This activity will now be legalized on account of the efforts from Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas, who successfully passed a private members bill into law amending the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act.
On the surface you might ask how allowing British Columbians to order wine from wineries in other provinces will be beneficial to B.C. wine producers. This is a good question and one that I also asked in my meetings with several renowned local wine makers.
The challenge with the current laws on a provincial scale is that while no province suggested it was illegal to ship wine out of province into other provinces, individually each province also had restrictions preventing wine from being directly shipped in.
In essence this created a catch-22 for the B.C. wine industry; if no province allowed wine to be shipped in, then in effect for a winery there was no province you could actually sell and ship wine directly in to.
In order to rectify this problem, each province needs to allow wine to be legally shipped in and that requires each respective province to create an exemption policy that supports shipping. Based on the recommendations from the BC Wine Institute, this new policy was announced last week by Minister Coleman and has been enthusiastically supported by wine consumers and the industry alike.
I am told that already Manitoba and Alberta have made similar policy announcements and Ontario is currently reviewing their provincial exemption policy. As there are over 200 wineries active in B.C. and a further few dozen in planning and licensing stages this will be an important policy for our local Okanagan wine industry and it is encouraging that other provinces have been swift in responding to these changes.
On a different theme this past week the BC Supreme Court announced a decision that supports the consequences of drinking and driving charges and fines under B.C.’s tougher impaired driving laws. Although the initial revisions that increased the penalties for drinking and driving infractions were deemed to require further legal review, this recent decision has concluded that these changes are not retro-active, meaning that penalties and fines imposed prior to the more recent changes will still stand.
If you require further information in this matter please contact my office directly. Also a reminder that all enquires at the office of any Member of the Legislature are strictly confidential and are not subject to the freedom of information act. Your personal information is never revealed without your written approval.
Before I close this week’s report I would like to congratulate Penticton Secondary student Ann Thielmann in winning a BC Innovation Council Science Achievement Award. These awards recognize outstanding academic excellence in science aptitude across British Columbia secondary schools.