When Canadian premiers met this summer in Niagara-on-the-Lake, British Columbia’s Christy Clark had every intention of sending a message to Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne: free my grapes and consider abolishing Ontario’s archaic liquor laws. Both sentiments fell on deaf ears.
Ask Vancouver lawyer Mark Hicken and he will tell you that Wynne continues to side and stand beside an “apparent adoption of a LCBO scripted anti-consumer position regarding inter-provincial wine shipping.” Despite a wave of protest, both the provincial monopoly and the Premier refuse to budge on the idea of relinquishing control of domestic sales for fear of losing billions in tax dollars.
Editorial and social media protests are colonizing the airwaves. The information is now coming fast and furious. Publications across Canada are printing love letters to the grape sharing movement and the endorsements have encouraged inter-provincial unions to emerge from the proverbial closet. As of today, the much discussed topic of inter-provincial wine shipping has just heated up to a whole new level. The anti-establishment entities of Free My Grapes and The Foodie Pages are actively seeking reform and they are not shy to act on it. In fact, the FP just launched a new faction of their website to actively promote, connect and enable Canadian wineries to ship directly to consumers in provinces where receiving wine is taboo.
Wait, is that allowed? The short answer is no, but rules are not necessarily laws. The province of Ontario may endorse the LCBO’s policy of not allowing its residents to order from beyond its borders, but there is no statute to stop them from doing so. The laws would have to be amended to make shipping practices illegal. Even if that were to happen, it could never be worth the cost, and how exactly might it be enforced?
So what’s the big deal? True, nothing has really changed, but the Foodie Pages are the first to publicly declare a war on provincial stubbornness. It’s no secret that Canadian wineries have been shipping (with the aid of Canada Post) their product around the country; it’s just that no one has had the cohones to build a business model around such an out-of-bounds subject.
Three weeks ago, two Canadian Sommeliers, Nillo Edwards and Matt Steeves, together wrote in the Vancouver Sun, “B.C. winemakers want to expand across Canada, but entrenched bureaucracy resists change…Simply put, when it comes to fostering success for the Canadian wine industry, our political decision-makers are being ill-advised by liquor boards that cannot see the vineyard for the grapes.”
In the September edition of Toronto Life Magazine, David Lawrason encourages Ontario consumers to order wines direct from British Columbia, despite the rules. There have been Successful contraband smuggle operation from ON to NS and from B.C to Ontario.
Foodie Pages CEO Erin Maynes says her initiative will connect Canadian wineries with out-of-province consumers. Master Sommelier John Szabo notes “with the recent changes in federal law permitting direct shipping, the timing is perfect for FoodiePages.ca to step in, as they do for local food producers, and connect artisanal winemakers with consumers.”
A wide range of Canadian wines that aren’t available through provincial liquor stores are marketed on the Foodie Pages website, but the actual buying and selling is direct with the winery. If, as a Canadian winery, you can’t meet LCBO requirements such as producing and offering 300 cases of a particular product, you can likely forget about finding shelf space. This is where Foodie Pages comes in, to help the little guy enable connections. When asked if she fears repercussions from provincial monopolies, Maynes’ answer was an emphatic, no. She insisted the website breaks no laws and the nine B.C. wineries who have chosen to ship direct to Ontario have every right to do so. As do the oppressed residents of Ontario to receive them.
Let’s face it. The current restrictions on ordering wine are built of concepts that date back to Prohibition days. That in itself is simply ridiculous. British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba have opened their doors. Canada is emerging from the dark ages and its medieval wine marketplace. To uphold protectionism and prohibit your citizens from purchasing a few hundred dollars worth of fermented produce from the smallest of farmers in another province is beyond rational. Mark Hicken has so rightly pointed out that wine drinkers are voters too. Will the next Ontario election effect change? Sadly, no, but this is a wave that will not die. The grapes will one day be free.
Good to go!