On behalf of Canadians, especially those who love wine, we are pleased that you have sought out the views of the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers. We represent a grassroots volunteer organization, more commonly known by our campaign name “Free My Grapes”.
We exist for a single purpose—that it should be legal for Canadians to directly buy from Canadian wineries and have the wine shipped across provincial borders for their personal consumption. We call this winery-to-consumer or WTC sales. Bill C-311, ideally with our proposed amendment, has our full support. I have five quick points to make, plus an important request on the amendment.
First, Canadians want interprovincial wine barriers removed. We believe there should be a single Canadian market and expect that everything should be available via the Internet. Bill C-311 will provide an opportunity for greater consumer choice, the ability to visit a winery and have the wine shipped home, to reorder this wine, to join wine clubs, and to go to a winery's website and order wines that you hear about through word of mouth or through local blogs.
Canadians are unwilling to accept this archaic prohibition-based law that has been mocked in major national and local newspapers, radio, and even the national evening newscast. Canadians in every province and territory support our cause. They have signed our petitions, sent letters to MPs, and joined us on Facebook and Twitter. There's even been one individual, Terry David Mulligan, who has been willing to go to jail in his protest of this law.
Second, this is affordable. Our WTC request has been carefully crafted to minimize the impact on provincial revenues. Our analysis, based on ShipCompliant data—which has been tracking the U.S. impact of direct-to-consumer sales, where it is legal in 38 of 50 states to ship across state lines—only 0.6% of a single one per cent of U.S.-produced wine is shipped across state lines. If we apply these numbers to Canada and assume no economic benefit, which is an ultra-conservative projection, 0.6% of 1% translates into 0.001 to 0.015 of the liquor board revenues, ranging from a potential loss to provincial and territorial treasuries of $44 in Nunavut to $619,000 in Ontario. These amounts can be easily recovered through cost savings. For example, WTC and a change of just 1¢ per bottle of wine sold would result in a revenue increase for each and every province.
On the plus-side, we believe that taxes, jobs, and other economic benefits will result in the provinces, more than covering their costs, and that wine-producing provinces will gain significantly from increased tourism, wine sales, and grape sales. The high cost of shipping wine means WTC is only attractive for wines not locally available and will be largely used for higher-end wines. As in the U.S., all this translates to 98% of wines still being purchased locally.
Third, the vast majority of Canadian wines simply are not available to Canadians. A quick tour down the aisle of your local liquor store clearly demonstrates that very few of the 450-plus wineries are actually represented, and the limited shelf space in existing outlets means they never will be.
Fourth, the greatest benefit is going to go to small and medium rural businesses. U.S. experience shows that every state that has allowed WTC has had their local wine sales increase, and most small wineries cannot or will not sell their wines through liquor boards. Also, wine and culinary tourism will increase.
Finally, this bill does not undermine the need or the ability of provinces to properly regulate the sale of wine. Provinces will still set the regulations, such as limiting the changes to winery-to-consumer sales. They will still ensure the protection of minors through such vehicles as licensing shipping companies and demanding proof of age at delivery.
Earlier I mentioned one area of concern, and I will quickly conclude with this. The current amendment is worded in such a way that liquor boards could flaunt the will of Parliament and not actually make a single change. Given that they have been unwilling to work with Canadian vintners and establish a winery-to-consumer framework and that the provinces have refused to respond positively to Minister Gerry Ritz's invitation to discuss the needed changes, we have no reason to believe, with the exception of British Columbia, that they won't just ignore Bill C-311. This will disappoint and anger Canadians, who widely believe that Bill C-311 will make a difference, otherwise why would we be spending our collective time and our collective money working on it?
Our request is that you add the word “reasonable” before “quantity”, and remove the word “and” afterwards.
There is legal precedent that demonstrates that such a change would not create the concerns raised by Mr. Albas, and the provinces would still have the ability to set quantity limits. This change would only encourage them to go beyond the pointless two bottles per year limit that some have today. Mr. Hicken is capable of addressing this further.
In summary, we're asking you to vote in favour of Bill C-311 with the amendment.