“Courage is having the integrity to do the
right thing even if it means you stand alone.”Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act
Private Members’ BusinessMay 29th, 2012 / 5:40 p.m.NDP
Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BCMr. Speaker, I am happy to say a few words in support of Bill C-311. I would like to thank my colleague for Okanagan-Coquihalla for taking the initiative to introduce the bill.I know there is pressure to fast-track the bill through Parliament, and I understand that. However, it should be noted that this issue is not new. The Canadian Vintners Association has been requesting more flexibility in our liquor laws for a number of years.I became involved a few years ago. I wrote the minister on September 2010 and received a very favourable response. At the time, he mentioned that he was soliciting input from provinces and territories to enter into a consensus-building approach to explore the impact of the limitations in place under the act. Subsequently, we had more communication. It is my understanding that this was in the process.To those who say that we need to go very quickly, I understand that. However, we should put this in context: this issue has been under consideration for a while. Theoretically, the government could have introduced legislation long ago and resolved the issue. That did not happen and we are here today debating this important bill.Hopefully we can move it forward today. It would certainly be very appropriate if we could change this law before the summer tourist season.Why is this bill important?
First, it would allow consumers to buy a reasonable quantity of wine directly for personal consumption. The quantity would be defined by each province.
Let us not forget that it is illegal for me, for example, to go to a winery in Ontario, buy a bottle of wine there and take that bottle home with me to British Columbia. It is absurd.
This bill would also address the legal issues surrounding interprovincial wine tourism and would allow wineries to ship their products, including products ordered online, directly to customers in other provinces, according to the limits set by those provinces.
So to support this bill is to support choice for consumers. It would greatly benefit Canadians to have a wider choice of wines, particularly from small wineries all over Canada.
We must remember that the Canadian wine industry is beginning to make an international reputation for itself as a temperate zone wine producer. It has won an impressive number of awards and has earned the praise of a number of the world’s most influential countries in terms of wine appreciation.
Making this act more flexible would broaden the choice, while still maintaining the monopoly enjoyed by each province’s liquor board.
While I am here I will give a plug to our B.C. government liquor stores and their employees. It is my understanding that the passage of Bill C-311 will not in any way interfere with our provincial liquor boards to serve citizens in our communities. Our government liquor stores are first-class with a wide variety of products and employees who are knowledgeable and proud of what they do. We should also not forget that they play a major role, with their half-decent wages, in contributing to the economy, especially in our small communities. Good union jobs in our small communities are the best guarantee of the survival of a small business. Government liquor store employees contribute significantly to the economy of the communities in which they live and work.
It is important, especially for our small rural communities, for everyone to rally in support of retaining well-paying jobs. I have spoken with representatives of chambers of commerce and labour about the idea of presenting a united front the next time there are proposed government cutbacks that threaten our workers and the way of life in our small communities.
I thank the Canadian Vintners Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and all the wineries in my riding, the riding of the member for Okanagan-Coquihalla, in Kelowna and right across the country. I have tasted fine wines in Ontario, too. These wineries have rallied in support of this legislation.
Hopefully very soon, ideally this summer, the summer tourists will be able to visit wineries in other provinces, buy a few bottles and take them home with them legally.
I thank my colleague from Okanagan-Coquihalla again for spearheading this important issue.