Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use). As the law stands today, it is illegal to purchase wine from a winery in one province and then bring it home.
In Canada a consumer cannot purchase a bottle of wine in one province and then transport it across a provincial border. One cannot purchase wine online or have it sent by mail if the wine is coming from a different province. I use these examples because simply laying out the facts as the law stands now, it seems difficult for people to believe we have a law in place that is this nonsensical and anachronistic.
The reality is it is easier today for a consumer to import wine from another country than to import wine from another province. There are more trade barriers between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia than there are between Canada and Chile, as an example. This ridiculous situation needs to be addressed and this legislation is a big help in addressing it.
As an example, if people from New Brunswick make the very short trip to visit a winery in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, they cannot even bring wine home with them. It is against the law. There are both federal and provincial laws that make this activity illegal. Most of these rules date back to the prohibition era. They are outdated and they needlessly cost Canadian jobs. We need to get rid of them.
That is why I am proud not only to support but also to second Bill C-311. The bill would get rid of the federal rule against importing wine from one province to another as long as that wine would be for personal use and not for commercial purposes. It would amend Canada's Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to create an exception for personal use. I would argue that we ought to go further to include the restaurant industry and commercial use as well. That is a discussion for another day and also engagement with provincial governments.
The legislation would not get rid of the problem entirely. Most provinces will still not allow wine to be imported from another province, but Bill C-311 sends the right signal and provides some federal leadership by removing the federal obstacle. That is a step in the right direction.
Thankfully, the Province of Ontario is already moving in that direction on the provincial side. This past summer the LCBO changed its rules to allow individuals to bring with them up to nine litres of wine from another province. It makes me wonder why they would choose nine litres when wine comes in cases, of course. However, sometimes the bureaucracy does things that we cannot understand. It is like buying cars that never seem to take whole containers of antifreeze. Anyway, that is another discussion.
In any case, it is a step in the right direction. I commend the Ontario government for taking that step. We need every province to make these kinds of changes.
The member for York Centre referred to the Liberal Party's aversion to free trade. In fact, the Liberal Party, with the exception of one election in 1988, has always been the party of freer trade. In fact, if we look from an economic perspective, liberalized trade is something that is key to the Liberal Party and core to our beliefs on the economy.
In order to keep Canada's wine industry, including our wineries in Nova Scotia competitive, it is essential that we break down these barriers on the federal side and on the provincial side. In terms of Nova Scotia's wine industry, when I was first elected 14 years ago, there was one winery operating in my riding of Kings—Hants. As of 2010, there are now 17 farm wineries and 30 grape growers operating vineyards. It is a $10 million a year industry.
The hon. member referred to the fact that today the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia is perhaps where the B.C. industry in the Okanagan Valley was 20 years ago. That is quite right. It would be helpful for us to look at what lessons we can learn from what has occurred in the Okanagan Valley and in the Niagara region. We should also look at the genesis of the wine industry in the Napa Valley, the Sonomo Valley and central coast. We should be looking at these and determining best practice on a local level.
In any case, the success of these wineries in my riding has created huge spinoffs for restaurants and tourism, and the whole foodie-type tourism which is growing. It is a remarkably valuable resource and an enhancement to the quality of life for people who live in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.
In my riding of Kings--Hants we can now boast nine wineries: L'Acadie Vineyards in Gaspereau, operated by Bruce Ewert; Avondale Sky Winery in Newport Landing, operated by Ben Swetnam; Benjamin Bridge Vineyards in Gaspereau, operated by Gerry McConnell and his family; Blomidon Estate Winery in Canning, managed by Greg Benjamin; Domaine De Grand Pré in Grand Pré, managed by Hanspeter Stutz, winemaker Jurg Stutz; Gaspereau Vineyards in Gaspereau, managed by Dan Burns, winemaker, Gina Haverstock; Luckett Vineyards in Wolfville, operated by that great Nova Scotian entrepreneur Pete Luckett; Muir Murray Estate Winery outside of Wolfville, operated by Dr. Jonathan Murray; and Sainte-Famille Wines in Falmouth, operated by Suzanne Corkum.
In terms of recognition, people are taking notice of the wines in Nova Scotia. Many of these wineries are now winning awards. As an example, at last year's Canadian Wine Awards, Bruce Ewert of L'Acadie Vineyards received a gold medal for his 2007 Prestige Brut. Nova Scotia is excited to host this year's awards in November 2011.
A recent Globe and Mail article on Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve was titled, “Surprise! One of Canada's best wines is from Nova Scotia”.
I’ll say it straight. One of the best Canadian wines I’ve tasted comes from Nova Scotia. I’m only surprised that it didn’t come from the Champagne region of France. It’s called Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve...
The sparkling wine industry is evolving successfully in Nova Scotia as well as the ice wine industry. The success is also enhancing our orchard industry and value-added industry related to the orchards and the emerging cider industry. There are a lot of spinoffs.
This is probably a bad sign for any industry, when politicians start to enter it, but a couple of years ago we planted a vineyard on our property on the shores of the Minas Basin. We have a wonderful south-facing slope on the shores of the Minas Basin. We planted L'Acadie vines and we are intending on expanding that this year. In my line of work, it is always good to have a backup plan.
The wineries in our region are drawing tourists from throughout the country and around the world. Tourists are touring the wineries, eating at our restaurants, staying at the inns, the bed and breakfasts, and hotels, supporting the local economy.
What is really crazy is that in many cases people from other parts of Canada, after sampling the excellent local wines, cannot buy a case to take it home with them. That is nuts.
I remember in the 1990s, I lived in New York and travelled throughout the U.S. doing business. I remember spending a weekend in Napa Valley. We bought cases of wine and had them shipped back to us in New York. It was great. That is the way it should be. It is not only good for the local economy, but it is civilized.
The idea that we cannot transport wine across a provincial border is so nonsensical and damaging to the development and the evolution of businesses, wineries and restaurants. It makes no sense whatsoever.
In terms of the future growth of Nova Scotia wine, more and more Nova Scotians are discovering and supporting local wineries. In fact, last year the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission sold $109 million of worth of wine. Of that, almost 6% of that was local wine from Nova Scotia.
Even in terms of our own province, it is growing. The key, the way to grow our markets, is to actually expand so that we can sell wine across Canada.
Nova Scotia has a population of less than a million people, so our market is too small to sustain the kind of growth that we are able to achieve in our industry. We need to remove these needless interprovincial trade barriers and open up our markets so that local businesses can create jobs and grow the economy.
I know I am delving into areas of provincial jurisdiction which is always a mistake for a federal politician, but nevertheless.
I am a citizen of Nova Scotia. I did not relinquish my citizenship to become a federal politician. As such, I do have opinions and one of those opinions is that neither the provincial liquor commission in Nova Scotia nor the provincial government need be in the liquor business to begin with. Last year the liquor commission made $230 million and was run by bureaucrats. Imagine how much it would be worth if it were run by retailers who understood the markets. We could privatize that and take $3 billion or $4 billion off the provincial debt.