Buying Canadian wine online: interprovincial trade rules and you

The Canada court ruling by a New Brunswick judge that restrictions on bringing alcohol into the province were unconstitutional was in many ways, precedent setting. Gerard Comeau was charged when he brought 14 cases of beer and 3 bottles of liquor into New Brunswick (an amount over the allowable limit set out by the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act of 1 bottle of wine or alcohol, or 12 pints of beer) but ultimately pardoned of those charges when Provincial Court Judge Ronald LeBlanc ruled the Fathers of Confederation intended for all Canadians to imbibe freely of their neighbour's barrel (er, interprovincial free trade of all goods, including alcohol). 

Okay. So what the heck does any of this mean? How does this impact you if you’re wanting to buy wine from outside of Ontario? What’s the significance of this ruling on wine delivery within province? What’s the history of these laws and where are we headed for the future of wine e-commerce?

Here’s the skinny:

  • Up until 2012, purchasing wine from the LCBO and taking it home to Quebec was illegal and punishable by jail time
  • Bill C-311 was passed in July 2012 which removed the possibility of jail sentence but left it up to individual provinces to determine regulations
  • Ontario’s decision was to not allow the trade of wine from other provinces, backed by the LCBO
  • Other provinces embraced wine e-commerce including British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Manitoba allowing the home shipment of wine from all over Canada, including Ontario, from wineries directly and wine subscription clubs
  • The BC premier has pleaded with the Ontario government and LCBO to allow BC wine e-commerce in Ontario but to no avail
  • Mark Hicken, prominent wine lawyer, points out that Ontario’s wine e-commerce rules are policy statements and not equivalent to law
  • There is no provincial border control prohibiting wine delivery from outside of province
  • There are many wine delivery and subscription services offering the home delivery of wine (link to previous story)

In brief, although wine e-commerce within Canada is still somewhat of a complicated political issue, wine consumers can still access a great amount of Canadian goods through a growing number of online, home delivery options.

After his charge was lifted, Mr. Comeau was quoted as saying “After three years, I’m thirsty.” Thankfully, with all of these online options and a political future moving towards the free trade of alcohol between provinces, we won’t have to be.


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