House of Commons Hansard #62 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wineries.

Topics

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the only value the Senate has is for the Conservative Party and Liberal Party is as a place for their bag people to go and collect money for them. That is the value of the Senate, none other than that. The value of it is for those parties to put their own folks in the other chamber to phone and petition for money for the Liberal Party or Conservative Party.

There is no value in the Senate. My friend is wrong. He ought to look at the reports and read the polls. The majority of Canadians have said that it is time for the Senate to go.

What we say is, “Have a merry Christmas”, and then we will roll up the red carpet, send them on their way and watch them collect their pension. Unless, of course, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party would like to be generous and help the Canadian public pay the pensions that they gave the crew down at the far end. If they are willing to help the Canadian public to do that, then the Canadian public would probably appreciate it.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a tough act to follow, believe me.

I am pleased to rise here today to speak to An Act respecting the selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits. I admit that the issue of the Senate is one that may seem straightforward at first, but it must nevertheless be carefully analyzed, because we are wading into constitutional waters, as some would say, and into muddy waters, as others would say.

I can think of one prime minister who talked about abolishing the Senate for quite some time and then started talking about an elected Senate. Once he came to power, he suddenly changed his tune and decided to do the same thing as the previous Liberal governments—he started giving Senate appointments to political friends, fundraisers, and as my hon. colleague from Welland so aptly put it, people who work behind the scenes, all paid for by taxpayers.

When I began my legal studies and was studying constitutional law, the issue of the Senate of Canada came up. I had the great pleasure of taking classes taught by none other than the great Senator Beaudoin himself—not necessarily great in height, but great in terms of eminence. He was not a Conservative senator when he was teaching my classes. He taught us about the Canadian parliamentary system.

I grew up thinking that the Senate was indeed what had always been called “a chamber of independent sober second thought”. That title always impressed me. The title is even longer in French: “lieu de la réflexion indépendante, sereine et attentive au sein de la démocratie parlementaire canadienne”. I was so naive that I believed that for a very long time. I thought we had a parliament made up of MPs elected by the public to debate the issues, represent their constituents and engage in dialogue, which might be vigorous but is always supposed to be respectful.

Since then, I have learned that Canadian democracy is not all that healthy. When we want to talk, we end up being silenced. There are time allocation motions. That is a new expression I have heard a lot in the House the past few months.

While I was learning about the wonderful Canadian system, I learned that the Senate was a place free from any influence, a body that would disregard partisan politics and work together to examine issues. I learned that the Senate conducted indepth studies of bills once they passed all the stages in the House and in committee.

I have met senators whom I admire a lot. They are strong people, people with whom you can have extremely interesting and deep conversations. Unfortunately, the very politicized and partisan side of the system seems to have drifted down the hall to that sacrosanct chamber, where we do not often have the right to enter, except on rare occasions, and even then, only in the hall. In any case, we do not go in very far.

As co-chair—with a colleague from the Senate—of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, I learned that no matter where it goes, the Senate always has priority over the House of Commons, the people's house.

Partisan appointments have always tainted the quality of the Senate. Once people were appointed, they were there until the age of 75. We saw Senate reports that were not necessarily partisan and that did not reflect the views of the party that had the majority in the Senate. It was not uncommon to see bills come back to the House of Commons with amendments because they had been carefully studied.

The problem with the current situation is that not only do we have an ultra-partisan House of Commons that hardly debates any more and is often democratic in name only, but we also have a Senate that is the same in nature. That is of great concern to me. In this context, when examining the issue of changing and improving the Senate, I take everything with a large grain of salt. I see nothing in any of the changes proposed by the government in Bill C-7 that will ensure that the Senate will serve as chamber of independent, sober second thought within Canada's parliamentary democracy.

There are even some aspects of the bill that are of great concern to me. On the one hand, we will end up with a sort of patchwork Senate, made up of senators who may be elected, who are not really elected, who are almost elected, who are not elected at all, and who are elected but not appointed, and this will really create a rather unusual situation. As for its fundamental role, we must be honest and members of the House of Commons have to take a good look and ask themselves what the purpose of this Senate is, other than having a Liberal or Conservative wing that, depending on who has the majority, does the prime minister's bidding.

Canada is probably the country where power is most concentrated in the hands of only one person. I challenge even my colleagues opposite to say that they have a lot of power. What the PMO says is what the PMO does. The rest just trickles down and people fall in line. There is only the official opposition to stand up to and serve as the counterweight to the government. Thus, under the circumstances, I went one step further and asked myself what the purpose of the Senate is. To my mind, it serves no purpose. The NDP nevertheless realizes that there are very important constitutional issues involved in abolishing the Senate. We are very much in favour of putting the question to the people, and I believe that they must decide if we should continue to have a senate.

Since 1968, I believe, every provincial senate has been abolished, and the provinces are doing just fine without their senate. This solves my problem. I am acutely aware that we have to discuss this with our partners in the federation, namely the provinces and territories. We cannot come up with this type of change and be paternalistic about it and presume that it is up to us, because this has a huge impact on how the Canadian Constitution operates. I am also well aware of the position of Quebec, which challenges the constitutionality of the Conservative government's proposed changes.

We have a much simpler suggestion: it might be time to put the question to the Canadian public. The Liberals are saying they do not want more MPs. But we keep asking the wrong questions. The real question is: what is a reasonable number of constituents for an MP to represent? Once we establish that, we stop playing political games, we respect the fact that some provinces are less populous, and we respect the nation of Quebec. That would work.

The same goes for the Senate. Let us put the question to the public. If we put our trust in the public, we might be surprised by the result. They might say something intelligent. They might say that the Senate is indeed a waste of time, that it is redundant and full of people who get pensions that cost the country a lot of money, when other people are in real need of that money. I am not talking about the people here in this House, but those outside the walls of Parliament. Perhaps we could find a better way to invest that money than in a stronghold of partisan players who are working at our expense to help the Liberal or Conservative cause.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before we proceed to questions and comments, it is my duty to inform the House that although the House had been informed that 30 minutes would be added under the normal time for government orders, according to and subject to article 67.2 of the Standing Orders, the only time that the 30 minutes is added for government orders is when the said bill that was the subject of the motion on the recorded division that we just took is in fact the bill that is before the House for the remainder of government orders.

Since the bill that is before us, Bill C-7, is not that said bill, the time allocated for government orders will be the normal time until 5:30 p.m.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her speech. She spoke very passionately and clearly expressed her point of view. However, it seems to me that her position is somewhat contradictory in that her party, quite rightly, wants to respect the Constitution when it comes to Senate reform but flouts the Constitution when it comes to making changes to the House of Commons. Of course, the NDP was unable to prove that a province's representation in this House could be forever frozen through a parliamentary decision. The NDP spoke about one case, but it involved provincial elections. The drawing of provincial riding boundaries would not in any way give Parliament the right to ignore the provinces' prerogatives in terms of the constitutional rules pertaining to their representation in this House.

Could the NDP be consistent and respect the Constitution when it comes to both Senate and House reform? The Conservatives are flouting the Constitution when it comes to Senate reform. Does the NDP intend to flout the Constitution at all costs when it comes to House reform?

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we could have a very interesting debate with the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville. The NDP's position on the distribution of seats and on maintaining Quebec's political weight, which the hon. member has deemed to be unconstitutional, simply recognizes the unanimous motion adopted by this House giving Quebec the status of a nation within a united Canada. We did not hear any province or territory object to this fact.

When a motion such as this one is adopted, members play politics to look good, but when the time comes to act on such a motion, they are happy to ignore it. The NDP's positions on Senate reform and maintaining Quebec's political weight are not inconsistent in any way.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments. I would like her to explain why it is important that this issue be taken to the people and that they take part in the debate.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, what a great question. The people should be consulted because it is their House and their Senate. The Senate was created to ensure that all regions of the country would be well represented and to serve as a counterbalance to the House of Commons, where members are elected and where the system is not based on proportional representation. This allows Conservatives, for example, to have a majority with only 39% of the vote.

We want to transform the Senate, which is supposed to represent the Canadian people. We have reached this point in our constitutional life. Seventy-one per cent of Canadians want to have a say in the lifespan and viability of the Senate.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, since it is related to the debate, I would like to talk about the Senate's financial statements from March 31, 2010. The costs were: pay and benefits, $71,685,000; transportation, $12,883,000; facilities, $11 million; and professional services, $4 million. The total is $107 million. Since we have a deficit budget, I think it is appropriate to bring up the costs of an unelected, undemocratic and unrepresentative Senate. I thank my colleague for mentioning it.

There is something strange in the Conservatives' Bill C-7. The government says that it wants to respect basic democratic principles, but at the same time, candidates for election to the Senate must be nominated by a registered political party, meaning that the Conservatives would refuse to accept an independent candidate. What does my colleague think about that?

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question, but I do not want to start a debate with the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

When I first read the bill, that was the impression I was under. However, there is indeed an additional clause that provides for the possibility of having an independent candidate. That is how I understood it.

Nonetheless, in my opinion it is nothing but tricks—there is no other word for it—because the thing that comes out of all this is the fact that the Prime Minister is never required to choose the person who was duly elected by the public. That alone leads me to believe that once again this is just smoke and mirrors to give people the impression that the Conservatives are being democratic.

When the Conservatives were elected in 2006, they said they were going to start doing what the Liberals had stopped doing and that is to govern properly. The Conservatives were going to be transparent, do things better and be scandal-free. Look at them now. It did not take long before they were up to their eyeballs in alligators. The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie criticizes their antics almost every day.

Somewhere along the way, we traded one bad thing for another, and that is what has to change.

The House resumed from October 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

When the question was last before the House, the hon. member for Kitchener—Waterloo had four and a half minutes remaining in his speech.

The hon. member for Kitchener—Waterloo.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to continue to speak to Bill C-311, brought forward by my colleague from the riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla who is doing great work serving his constituents.

The amendment contained in Bill C-311 is clearly long overdue. There are also clear advantages to adopting it. For example, this progressive amendment to the legislation would reduce red tape by lowering the regulatory burden on the wine industry. This is a priority for our government. We are determined to help businesses and entrepreneurs succeed, keeping taxes low, investing in projects of national importance, and maintaining Canada's brand as one of the best places in the world to invest.

Consistent with our government's commitments, this long-awaited reform would reduce barriers to internal trade. This anachronistic aspect of the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act is out of step with global trends to liberalize internal trade. Once adopted, this amendment would remove an irritating federal obstacle to trade.

Bill C-311 sends a strong signal that Ottawa is getting out of the way on an issue that is squarely within provincial jurisdiction. The federal government does not have the authority or means to stop the interprovincial movement of goods at provincial borders. The IILA merely serves as an umbrella under which the provinces and territories exercise their authority to control the importation of wine products into their jurisdictions.

Provincial and territorial governments administer a system of licences and permits to distribute, transport, detail and use alcohol products. They would be free to develop or amend their own legislation, should they so choose, to enhance or expand the interprovincial trade in wine. For instance, some provinces and territories designate communities as being dry or impose community-controlled restrictions on the purchase of alcohol. Nothing in Bill C-311 precludes them from continuing to do so.

Most crucial, this legislation would respond to the needs of the business community in an industry currently being held back from achieving its full potential. Individual wineries, most particularly those in British Columbia and in my home province of Ontario, along with the Canadian Vintners Association, have repeatedly requested permission for more liberalized domestic access to their products. As one example, according to local media reports, Vineland Estates in Ontario receives at least 100 requests for its products from consumers in other provinces every month, a need it is currently unable to satisfy because to do so is illegal. Being free to sell wine directly to consumers would enable Canada's winemakers to expand their operations and create jobs in local communities. Bill C-311 takes us closer to making this happen.

Canadians have been calling for an exemption to the IILA to remove the federal obstacle for individuals to purchase wine directly from wineries anywhere in Canada for their personal consumption. They should be able to buy a favourite wine made in a neighbouring province without worrying about breaking the law. These calls have the backing of numerous municipal and provincial chambers of commerce in wine producing regions across the country as well as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce because they know the impact this could have on jobs and economic growth. Members of the opposition have also endorsed these necessary amendments, no doubt because their own constituents are also telling them it is time to act.

In an era when it is possible to buy products from just about anywhere on the planet, via the Internet, and have them shipped in a matter of days to people's homes, it is almost unbelievable that Canadian consumers are currently contravening federal laws if they attempt to purchase wine from their favourite out of province winery. We can take an important step toward putting an end to this restrictive practice by voting today to adopt the amendment contained in Bill C-311.

I strongly encourage—

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. Resuming debate. The hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use).

Over the past years, as our former agriculture critic, I have been working with the Canadian Vintners Association, CVA, on behalf of wineries in my riding and right across the country to get some movement on this important issue.

At the request of local vineyards and the CVA, I have written a number of letters to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on this issue. For example, on September 21, 2010, I wrote the following letter to the minister:

Please find attached copies of letters that I have received from Mr. Tim Martiniuk, General Manager of Stoneboat Vineyards in Oliver, BC and Mr. Dan Pazkowski, President of the Canadian Vintners Association. These letters outline the need to modify the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA) to allow Canadian consumers more flexibility when purchasing wine at local wineries.

I concluded my letter by saying:

On behalf of our BC wineries I would like to thank you for the efforts you have already undertaken with the Provinces to improve the accessibility of our excellent wine among Canadians. I encourage you to explore other federal options that will facilitate a workable solution. Please be assured that you can count on my support on any initiatives that will advance this issue.

Yesterday I met with Mr. Pazkowski, as well as with Mr. Luke Harford, vice-president of the CVA, on another important matter that concerns our Canadian wine industry, that of the 21.2% excise duty that is paid on all wines sold in Canada that do not come under the VQA or Canadian-grown label. What this means is that Canadian blended wine producers pay an extra 10.78¢ per litre of excise duty which is hurting their industry. I will be following up with the minister on this issue.

As a result of yesterday's meeting, Mr. Pazkowski, at my request, has sent me the Canadian Vintners Association talking points on Bill C-311, hot off the press, which I would like to share with the House in the time remaining.

The first question that is often asked is:

Why is this important to Canadian producers?

According to the association, and I agree, this change would:

Facilitate better choice for Canadian consumers so that more Canadians can enjoy the full range of great Canadian wines.

Ensure that Canadians who have visited wine producing areas and tasted the products can continue to get the products they have enjoyed as tourists if the wine is not available at local liquor boards.

Help Canadian producers increase their market share at a time when imported wine products are increasing their portion of the market and dominating liquor board listings.

Will this undermine the current system of provincial liquor authorities?

A personal exemption is NOT intended to undermine or destroy the current system of liquor boards. Despite the best of intentions and the support of liquor boards in producing jurisdictions for the Canadian wine industry, liquor boards are not able to carry the full range of Canadian wines, due to supply requirements, space restrictions, etc.

Allowing a limited amount of 100% Canadian wines to be supplied directly to Canadian consumers from wine producers or to transport wine across provincial borders would represent a very small percentage of total wine sales. A personal exemption of 12-24 cases per year per adult consumer is not going to undermine the liquor board system.

For small wineries, these sales could represent an important revenue and profit stream they would not otherwise receive. The products likely to be traded are small volume but higher value wines which are not available in liquor boards and are of interest to premium wine consumers. Higher profits by wineries are shared with governments in the form of higher taxes.

Who would participate in an electronic direct delivery of wine across provincial borders if a personal exemption was put into place?

Such a system would respond to the desires of a “select group” of wine connoisseurs/consumers who want variety, quality and regional wines. This select consumer group has a shopping strategy and is willing to:

pay the transportation fee

order a set minimum quantity (e.g., 6-12 bottles)

order more expensive wines at a price point of at least $15 per bottle

consider both online and retail purchases

Yet another question that is often asked is:

How much 100% Canadian wines would be sold under such a system?

It is difficult to accurately measure the volume of wine sales from wineries that would be sold to tourists and wine enthusiasts. We anticipate that Canadian tourists are currently purchasing wine while on vacation at wineries and transporting this wine across provincial boundaries, without knowing they are violating the IILA.

US data shows that Direct Sales represents approximately 2% of total production in the US, of which approximately 1% is DCT shipments (tasting room delivery, internet, phone, wine club).

Based on the US model, approximately 1% of total 100% Canadian wine sales would take advantage of direct sales which could represent approximately 27,500 cases per year and would be drawn from wines that are not available at a local liquor stores via tasting room deliveries, internet, phone or winery wine club purchases.

This would also stimulate greater interest in retail sales at both wineries and liquor boards, resulting in greater market access across Canada and greater tax revenues and sales for both wineries and liquor boards.

The next question that is asked is:

Do Liquor Boards have a Meaningful Minimum Personal Exemption

According to the Vintners Association:

Liquor Boards have steadfastly opposed any amendments to the IILA to facilitate interprovincial trade in Canadian wine, even though total 100% Canadian wine sales across Canada represent a mere 6% of total wine sales.

With growing consumer pressure, liquor boards have further attempted to circumvent proposed amendments to the IILA by recently introducing small volume personal exemption limits.

For example, in Ontario the LCBO Board of Directors recently adopted a policy permitting Ontario residents of legal drinking age to transport 9 Litres of wine (equivalent to one case of 12 bottles) on their person from another Canadian province or territories, as long as it is for personal consumption. Other provinces have lower personal exemption limits [for example] Newfoundland (1.14 Litres) and PEI (2 litres) etc.

The Vintners Association would like to make two important points:

(1) Provincial personal exemptions are restricted to wine transported on your person, and do not permit the use of winery wine clubs, internet, phone, etc. This restricts the use of modern technology and limits the opportunity for Canadian consumers to access wines unless they travel to BC, Nova Scotia [or other provinces] which does not happen often in a country the size of Canada. Alternatively, you have the option to use the slow and expensive liquor board private order program.

(2) Provincial personal exemptions (e.g., the LCBO policy) are technically illegal since it contravenes IILA Section 3(1) that all alcohol entering a province be purchased by or on behalf of the Crown and Section (5) that anyone who contravenes the IILA is liable to penalties on summary conviction.

To ensure that liquor boards treat the issue seriously, it is important that Bill C-311 include a reasonable quantity. Industry fears that leaving the quantity to the provinces will provide limited benefits to Canadian consumers and would fail to address the spirit of Bill C-311.

I will continue with another question that is posed in this document, which is:

Are Provincial Private Order Programs effective?

The answer is:

Many liquor boards have introduced private ordering programs for wines that are not available at their provincial stores. This system requires consumers to request that liquor boards facilitate their communication with wineries, pay a premium for this service, and wait as much as 12 times longer for receipt.

In conclusion, I think Bill C-311 is a reasonable compromise. I would like to thank my colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla for introducing this bill.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be part of the debate on this private member's bill, Bill C-311.

I wish to congratulate my colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla, a riding in the beautiful province of British Columbia, on this very sensible bill. I am pleased that all the parties in the House seem to agree that it is a good thing to do.

I also want to congratulate my colleague from Kings—Hants for being the seconder of this bill and having spoken on behalf of the Liberal Party in support of it.

I represent a riding in British Columbia that has a large wine industry.

The wine industry is of growing importance in my province.

We have heard from members who have spoken to this bill that the current law makes no sense. We are dealing with a law that dates from 1928, the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, which was passed more than 80 years ago. This law was brought into force following the lifting of prohibition on alcohol. Some of the elements of the law at that time were overly restrictive because there was no clarity as to how the use and sale of alcohol would proceed following the period of prohibition.

What happens under that law established 80 years ago is that people visiting a vineyard in the province of British Columbia who come from another province in Canada would be able to taste wine, buy a bottle or two and consume it in B.C. However, they would not be able to take any home or order any to have sent home. This makes no sense from many perspectives, one of which is the trade barrier that it implies.

We are one nation. We are a united nation. We are a nation of Canadians who are united in many ways. One way to unify us is to reduce barriers to trade, to increase the prosperity of small businesses and their workforces. When there is a trade barrier that does nothing to protect people, it is important that we look at those laws, update them and change them. That is exactly what Bill C-311 is all about. It is time to change that law.

The changes proposed are widely supported. I know some of my colleagues have been speaking about that. It is a change that is supported by Canadian consumers who enjoy agri-tourism, visiting vineyards and going on wine tours. For example, the circle tours which have been developed in British Columbia are an important tourist product. People from other countries and provinces are invited. Some drive through the interior of British Columbia, one of the most spectacular parts of Canada, and through the Okanagan. They stop at wineries, enjoy high-quality meals, see the magnificent art on the walls, go on tours to see how wine is made and enjoy the products. It makes no sense whatsoever that if tourists visiting a winery come from south of the border, for example, they are able to have wine shipped to them, but if they come from Alberta, Nova Scotia or Quebec, they are not able to do that without breaking the law.

The law is actually quite strict. There is a $200 maximum penalty for a first offence. For a second offence, the penalty is between $200 and $1,000 or imprisonment of three to six months for the default of payment. I know some in the House might think that more and longer prison sentences are a good thing, but we all agree that for bringing wine from one province to another, it is completely ridiculous. This penalty actually goes up to between 6 and 12 months for each offence after the second offence. This a very out-of-date law.

Some concerns have been raised about the provinces' responsibilities in that regard. Will the federal government be acting in an area of provincial jurisdiction? I would like to say that that is not the case will Bill C-311, because it allows the provinces to set their own limits regarding the quantity of alcohol and bottles of wine that can be transported between provinces. This means that if a province does not want to import any wine and wants to stop all such imports, it can set the maximum amount at zero. Thus, the quantity or existence of this interprovincial exchange remains in the hands of the provinces.

Who is for this? It is very strongly supported by the vintners, of course, as well as the business community and even the provinces. I note that the solicitor general of British Columbia was publicly considering taking steps to reduce the effects of this antiquated law that made it an offence to take wine across a provincial boundary.

According to the vintners, the proposed amendments are widely supported by the Canadian wine industry. They are pleased to be able to facilitate consumer choice in wine. It is good for small business, for tourism and for people who love to sample wine from other parts of the country and bring it back to share with their families, friends and neighbours.

Having recently been on an economic tour of the interior of British Columbia, I noted that some of the rural communities that were struggling to develop their economies after a downturn in their logging industry. The local provision of jobs through logging are turning to agri-tourism. The vineyards and wineries are a high quality example of agri-tourism in British Columbia. In fact, our wineries are among the best in the world. We have a solid reputation for award winning wines. We want people to not only come and travel throughout British Columbia and bring their tourist dollars and leave them with the small businesses, the hotels, the restaurants and wineries, but we want them to be able to take some of that product home with them, or order that product.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the bulk of the wine industry. Almost all of Canada's wineries are small businesses. This is a very important part of rural economy and it is growing. The number of Canadian grape wineries has increased by roughly 300% to more than 400 wineries. British Columbia, of course, is one of Canada's wine centres and gives the other provinces a run for their money in terms of awards and recognition.

These are small businesses and our small and medium-sized business sector in Canada is incredibly important in terms of job creation, innovation and recycling money in the Canadian economy. Small and medium-sized enterprises employ two-thirds of the private sector workforce, overall. The wineries are an important segment of this.

In British Columbia, the B.C. wineries are happy to see this bill brought forward, so are wine lovers across Canada who can continue to appreciate and share with their friends the bounty that our vineyards produce.