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BC wineries uncork legal arguments

BC wineries uncork legal arguments

A case that will determine whether wines can be sold across provincial borders is expected to be decided next year.

Five small B.C. wineries intervened earlier in December on behalf of a coalition of more than 100 B.C. wineries during a two-day hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada. The legal battle will decide whether wineries have the right to ship their vintages to other provinces.

"My hope is that we will be able to direct ship to loyal wine lovers across Canada," said Christine Coletta, owner of Okanagan Crush Pad, who travelled to Ottawa to attend proceedings in the constitutional challenge.

“This will give small wineries like ours incentive to develop broad-reaching tourism initiatives that draw people to wine country. Once visitors return home and request our wines it is essential that we can continue the relationship from afar."

Wineries argue the legal barriers to inter-provincial shipping of Canadian wine negatively impact consumer choice, as well as threaten the local wine industry itself.

Lawyers for the wineries say the court is “concerned with judges entering too far into the policy jurisdiction of the democratically-elected provincial governments. At the same time, they recognized that the current situation regarding national distribution of liquor is not ideal."

The five intervening small B.C. wineries are Okanagan Crush Pad, Liquidity Wines, Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery, 50th Parallel Estate, and Painted Rock Estate Winery.

"I hope the (case) will give the nearly 800 small wineries in this country the chance to share their farm-based products freely with all Canadians,” said Ian Macdonald, owner of Liquidity Winery. “Direct to consumer wine shipments are the norm in all other wine-producing countries, and have proven essential for small winery economic viability."

Other interveners included the attorneys general from almost every province and territory, as well as representatives from the Canadian Vintners Association, the Association of Canadian Distillers, Canada's National Brewers, Cannabis Culture, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Federation of Independent Business, among others.

A Go Fund Me campaign is ongoing to help with legal costs.

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