Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts in reference to Bill C-311. I wish to emphasize that this is my opinion in regard to this issue and has nothing to do with the opinion of an organization.
First you have to realize where I am coming from. One of my toughest challenges as an immigrant from Switzerland and a producer of alcoholic beverages is the existing—or not existing—rules and regulations here in Canada. The interprovincial barriers are one big issue, the lack of Canadian wine regulation the other, but I understand this is not the right place and time to talk about a Canada wine standard.
We want to talk about an open—or let's start with a more open—domestic market. Since you are the Standing Committee on Finance, I assume that the growth of the economy is one of pillars in your mandate.
Let's go back to Nova Scotia.
The local farm area in Nova Scotia disposes of around 50,000 acres of unused farmland. The prices are still reasonable, because there is no shortage yet. The opportunities in Nova Scotia are obvious when you consider the following comparison of the cost of land: one acre of farmland in Nova Scotia costs between $2,500 and $4,000. One acre of farmland in Switzerland is between a rocketing $30,000 and $50,000.
Of course, we could grow vineyards along the north mountain, about 50 kilometres in length, but the question would come up very quickly: where could we sell all this additional wine, with a Nova Scotia population of approximately one million people?
This point is underscored by the present barriers we face as wine producers in selling our products in other provinces. It is easier for our winery to ship 20 cases of wine to Beijing, Germany, Dubai, or Switzerland than to ship one case to our neighbour, New Brunswick. Surely this is counterproductive to our joint goals and objectives. We are in the 21st century and we need a completely open domestic market for private and commercial trade with respect to licensees.
I support what you will hear of Janice's Ruddock's concerns about—I call them the big boys. We have to review these rules and regulations. We have to add the wording “100% Canadian” in front of the word “wine” in the bill.
Furthermore, we should limit the import of foreign products and concentrate on the marketing of our own. No wine region in the world has this policy, and we are the laughingstock of many wine-producing countries. We should strive to be world class, but with our present policies limiting our marketing opportunities, this cannot happen.
Your help is needed on this issue.
The innovative and creative small or medium-size winery has a certain disadvantage in this current environment, and the big guys are clearly laughing at us. Canada has outdated rules and regulations where wine importing, wine growing, winemaking, and wine marketing are concerned. Our competitors abroad could not be happier about all the red tape we are facing. The red tape has to go.
The wine industry in Canada has changed dramatically and has the potential to continue changing, but the rules will need to change. Your Standing Committee on Finance is challenged and should take action to change this antique modus. We should be one proud nation of wine producers. Think Canadian and out of the provincial boxes.