Evidence of meeting #51 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was wine.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Thank you.

Mr. Hicken, I well appreciate your articles in support of work with Terry David Mulligan over the years, and I appreciate his passion for the bill.

I have two questions. What is your definition of minimum reasonable amount? Could you speak to Ms. Zimmerman's request about having 100% Canadian wine?

4:05 p.m.

Vintage Law Group, Winelaw.ca

Mark Hicken

On the minimum reasonable amount, you can look to the United States. That's open to debate obviously. My personal definition would be one or two cases per month per person. That would be my personal definition. That's probably a legal issue you need to discuss in greater detail. But I think it's very important, as Shirley-Ann said, to add that to the bill because I think the history has been that the liquor boards are not particularly receptive to the changes that are needed.

If you look to the experience in the United States on the same issue, there have been a lot of attempts by individual states to seriously limit the ability of wineries to ship into a state, by imposing very strange low limits or other requirements that are difficult for wineries to satisfy. I guess that's my answer to the first question.

On the second question, it's my opinion that the amendments to the bill, as they are currently written, or the amendments that include “reasonable” would be trade agreement compliant. With great respect to the passion exhibited by Ms. Zimmerman, I do not think you could make the bill apply solely to 100% Canadian wine. I do not think that would be trade agreement compliant. I think that would be a clear violation of GATT and NAFTA. You'd have some serious problems with trade agreement compliance if that were done.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Having been a member of the International Trade Committee for the last six years, that would be my understanding as well.

Mr. Prodan, coming from British Columbia, I appreciate you coming out here, and also Josie Tyabji, you presented to the red tape reduction committee that my colleague Ms. McLeod hosted in Kamloops.

Maybe you could just elaborate on the impact this private member’s bill would have on the small vintners, not only in British Columbia but across Canada, those that are producing 3,000 or 4,000 cases and cannot supply to the liquor boards today.

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, British Columbia Wine Institute

Miles Prodan

Thank you.

Absolutely. I think, as my colleagues have said, we're a small producing region and a small producing country. The tourism aspect of this industry is critically important and there's a lot of value added there.

The fact is that in B.C., the liquor control board is very supportive of our registry, and so are other liquor control boards across Canada. The fact is, though, that with the small amounts we produce, it just is not reasonable for any of those small producing wineries, which make up the bulk of wineries, to sustain the allotment required to go into those liquor control stores. It's just not a viable way to grow their businesses.

If we want to grow, and we do, it's important that we have access to the customer. Direct-to-consumer is the only feasible and practical way to do so.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Cannan.

Mr. Regan, you have five minutes.

April 3rd, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I'd like to ask if any of the witnesses have a different position or perhaps some legal advice, from what Mr. Hicken has indicated. In relation to the clause on the importation of 100% Canadian wine and limiting this bill to 100% Canadian wine, does anybody else have a view on that? Mr. Hicken's view is that it would not be trade compliant, and you'd be challenged at WTO. Do others have a different view, and do you have a legal opinion to that effect?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Mr. Bosc, go ahead.

4:10 p.m.

President, Château des Charmes

Paul-André Bosc

I'm a wine producer, not a lawyer, but I am interested in a bill that is trade compliant. If that has to permit some imported wine to be traded, so be it. If that means blended wines, so-called ICB wines, or international-Canadian blends, are traded, so be it.

The fact is that the overwhelming majority of wine trading in this channel in the U.S. is premium and super-premium authentic wine. This is tourist-generated. Commercial ICB wines are available in any liquor store in the country. Go down to your corner liquor store and buy it. Why would you pay an extra $3 to $5 a bottle to ship it from the other side of the country? It's not an effective distribution channel. But for wines that are hard to find, that are premium, that are made by small family businesses having limited distribution across the country, this could potentially be a very important channel for those types of businesses.

We know that is the case in Europe and the United States, among other countries. Our colleagues tell us that this is a really important aspect of their business.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

That is the case, so to speak. The case? Never mind.

Ms. Zimmerman.

4:10 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Grape Growers of Ontario

Debbie Zimmerman

Thank you. I think we're here today because we felt it was important to raise this issue. Obviously we're a Canadian-grown industry. What's important for us is that we continue to have that opportunity to grow in our own marketplace.

The reason I raised the concern, and I think it's a very valid question, is that we don't want to see someone in Ontario who thinks they can order their fine wines from Europe from an LCBO in Alberta, and starting to eat into our marketplace.

That is our concern. That's one of the reasons we raised it today. If there were a way in which this bill could have been crafted—obviously we're sitting in the House of Commons in Ottawa, in Canada—to include 100% Canadian-grown grapes, we would have liked to have seen that consideration.

Those are the things we felt we needed to raise for our future issues. It is important, and if we could have prevented that we would have liked to see that in the bill. We've raised it a number of times.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

To help me understand the economic impact the bill might have on wine producers in various provinces, can you tell me what we're talking about here? I would think in most cases where wine is purchased in one province and brought to another, you are talking about a case, but you aren't talking about a hundred cases.

What can you tell us about the economic impact? Can you put a dollar value on it?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Grape Growers of Ontario

Debbie Zimmerman

I can defer to my wine partners on either side of me, but I would say we don't anticipate that this is going to be a massive amount of wine. This will be particular to each province.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

I see that Ms. Dawson is anxious to answer.

4:15 p.m.

President, Wine Council of Ontario

Hillary Dawson

Yes. We recently finished a study in Ontario on the economic impact of the sale of VQA wines, and we looked at their impact on the economy over and above taxation. For every litre of VQA wine that is sold in Ontario, it's $12.29 in added economic value for both the province and the country. From our perspective the net-plus side of each and every sale far outweighs any downside that any of the liquor boards could forecast.

If you think about it, certainly in our province, in B.C., and Nova Scotia for sure, these industries aren't just wine stores. They're tourism. They're agriculture. They're manufacturing. They're all the things. There are all these elements built into rural economies across this country.

I think the impact would be significant.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Thank you.

Ms. George.