moved 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.
Madam Speaker, it is with a tremendous amount of pleasure that I rise in the House today to kick off the first hour of debate at second reading of Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use).
I would first like to recognize the work of my colleague from Kelowna—Lake Country. Members will know he has done a great deal to move this important issue forward and to help an important Canadian industry grow and prosper.
I would like to share with all members of the House why I believe this bill is important.
Twenty years ago in the province of British Columbia there were roughly 15 wineries. Today the number is closer to 200 growing close to 10,000 acres of grapes, with a crop yield in excess of $40 million annually. More importantly, this has created an industry that provides thousands of jobs, even spinoff industries, such as, barrel making, stainless steel tanks and fabrication, laboratories, bottle and label making, marketing, and agri-tourism.
The economic benefits of the wine industry are far reaching. It is a clean industry that does not pollute our skies or rivers and is something at which many families can prosper, including first nation communities. That is correct. In the riding of British Columbia Southern Interior is Canada's first aboriginal owned winery. It makes great wines. In my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla, much like the ridings of Kelowna—Lake Country and British Columbia Southern Interior, we know first-hand the significant value and economic benefits of the wine industry.
Here is something very exciting. Nova Scotia is an emerging wine region. In fact, I have learned that Nova Scotia has discovered a great varietal called the l'Acadie grape which is well suited to the local climate and produces great wine. Today, as an emerging wine region, there are roughly 15 wineries in Nova Scotia, exactly where British Columbia was 20 years ago. Let us not forget that today B.C. has close to 200 wineries. That is great growth and prosperity for the B.C. wine industry and holds great potential for the province of Nova Scotia.
It does not end there. I have also learned that in the province of Quebec there are now five different wine regions and within those five regions are some 50 Quebec wineries that also produce some great wine. In Ontario the number grows to close to 140 wineries with roughly 16,000 acres planted in grapes. In fact, there is now a winery in every province of this great country. That is why we must not overlook the importance of supporting the Canadian wine industry, but there is a challenge.
Some 83 years ago during the prohibition era, a law was passed to make it illegal for everyday citizens to transport or ship wine across provincial borders. It is, for all intents and purposes, an interprovincial trade barrier, meaning that a winery in Quebec cannot legally send a bottle of wine to a customer in Alberta. Here is where it gets more redundant. That same Quebec winery that cannot legally send a bottle of wine to Alberta can send that exact same bottle of wine to Texas. Many small Canadian wineries can access markets outside our borders more easily than they can inside our own great country.
Canadians have proven that they can produce some of the best wine in the world and yet they cannot sell the wine directly to consumers in other Canadian provinces. We, as members of Parliament, have an opportunity to work together to change that by supporting Bill C-311.
Imagine if cars built in Ontario could not be sold in British Columbia. What if prized Nova Scotia lobster could not be sent directly to all households across Canada? This is the reality for many of the small Canadian wine producers. Those in the wine industry have been battling this unjust prohibition era legislation for many years, but collectively they have been the underdog. For a small family winery, as the vast majority of them are, without sufficient volume and financial resources, selling through large-scale provincial liquor distribution is very costly. That is why this prohibition era legislation is particularly harmful, because it restricts any marketplace alternative.
I am not a wine drinker, but I do appreciate that all across Canada from coast to coast we have families who work very hard to grow grapes. They invest their life savings into their vineyards and turn those grapes into a value-added commodity that helps drive our regional economies and puts people to work. However, an 83-year-old prohibition law essentially denies these same Canadian wine producers the ability to access the Canadian marketplace like every other Canadian producer can.
I will talk about how the bill hopes to rectify this situation, but first I will provide some background for the benefit of members.
The Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act controls the importation of intoxicating liquors into Canada and between provinces. Ultimately, the Canada Revenue Agency is responsible for the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, typically referred to as the IILA. At the border, this is administered by the Canada Border Services Agency. However, neither the CRA nor the CBSA administers or enforces the IILA in respect of interprovincial transactions.
Currently, the IILA dictates that all imports of wine from one province into another must be made solely by the provincial liquor board or a private corporation designated by that province. This prevents wine to be brought in or to be shipped by an individual from one province to another. This is why Canada Post and other shipping companies will not allow a citizen or a winery to directly send wine across a provincial territory. It is also why it is illegal for citizens to transport wine in person across provincial borders. That means if someone travels to Gatineau and purchases wine, the moment it is brought back to Ottawa, the person has broken a federal law according to the IILA.
Bill C-311 would amend the IILA to allow Canadians to purchase wine while visiting another province and then bring that wine back home into their own province. Bill C-311 would also amend the IILA to allow for domestic wineries to market and sell their products directly to consumers from other regions of the country.
To be clear, the purpose of the exemption is solely for personal use and not for commercial purposes. The personal exemption quantity limit is established individually by each province in question. To date, both Alberta and Ontario have developed a personal exemption policy for a provincial exemption definition. Other provinces have declined to develop a personal exemption on account of the IILA making the personal importation of wine illegal. That is why it is so important that we take action to create this personal exemption.
I would like to take a moment to share with the House that this proposal has generated a great deal of support from across Canada. In fact, even today I received a letter from Federal Express Canada in support of this bill. The Canadian Vintners Association and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce are in support of a personal exemption for the delivery of wine directly to consumers from outside their home province.
When reading the newspapers recently, I was pleased to learn that the Liberal finance and revenue critic, the member for Kings—Hants, supports the idea of reforming the IILA. The leader of the B.C. NDP agrees and last week stated that the B.C. NDP is advocating for an industry that employs a lot of people, is of huge value and is a cultural symbol in the Okanagan and a lot of other regions as well. I would also note that our NDP colleague, the member for British Columbia Southern Interior, has also made it clear to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food via correspondence that he would like to see changes to the IILA on behalf of his constituents.
Before I close I would like to share with the House the reality of a small family-run winery in my riding.
A typical 15-acre vineyard can yield roughly 40 tonnes of grapes per year. Those 40 tonnes of grapes, all going well, would then produce just 2,500 cases of wine. To sell through the large-scale liquor distribution system is very costly for a small winery. In my province, a small family winery is potentially looking at costs of 60% to sell through the liquor distribution branch, LDB, bureaucracy. That means of the 2,500 cases of wine, the first 1,500 cases are sacrificed solely to pay for the overhead of selling through a government corporate structure. That leaves just 1,000 cases of wine for a small family winery to try to pay the bills, provide jobs, pay taxes and make a living.
The reality for small wineries is that they cannot afford those kinds of costs. That is why opening up the Canadian marketplace is of such critical importance to the wine industry.
This week a small winery owner told me that this IILA exemption could increase his business by a potential 10%. That means more capital would be available for him to invest into expanding his winery. When I asked the winery owner what he would do with that added revenue, he was very quick to respond. He needs to build another 2,500 square foot building. That new building would house some new stainless steel fermentation tanks that would also need to be purchased. That creates jobs and supports our economy.
I would like to thank my colleagues for listening to my comments today. I am hopeful they will join me in supporting this bill and the Canadian wine industry.