Federal government makes first move to tear down interprovincial trade barriers for alcohol

Published April 18, 2019

After repeated calls from Restaurants Canada and other industry allies, the Canadian government is taking steps to remove interprovincial trade barriers for alcohol.

As promised in their 2019 budget, the Liberal government has introduced legislation to remove the federal requirement that alcohol moving from one province to another go through a provincial liquor authority. Once this measure passes, provinces and territories will need to make their own policy changes in order for direct-to-consumer shipping to be permitted across Canada.

A welcome first move

With all federal impediments to alcohol moving across borders within Canada being removed, the only remaining barriers will fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction and can only be removed by the provinces and territories.

This is a welcome first step. Getting the provinces and territories to reach interprovincial alcohol trade agreements is complicated enough without added federal restrictions and red tape. In fact, provincial governments often use federal regulations as an excuse not to move forward with their own free-trade measures for alcohol. Restaurants Canada is encouraged by the federal government’s long awaited action on this front and hopes the provinces and territories will be motivated to take their own steps forward.

Calling on all provinces and territories to raise the bar

On April 9, Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s minister of intergovernmental and northern affairs and internal trade, issued a challenge to all provinces and territories “to give Canadians freedom of choice and allow wine, beer and spirits to be sold directly to consumers across provincial and territorial borders.”

Restaurants Canada is publishing its biannual Raise the Bar report card on Canada’s liquor policies this fall. The federal government’s grade will likely see a boost thanks to this recent news. Hopefully the provinces will be able to improve their marks as well by showing Canadians that they care about giving them access to greater choice.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach out to Lauren van den Berg, Restaurants Canada National Vice President, Government Relations, at Lauren@restaurantscanada.org or David Lefebvre, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Federal and Quebec, at DLefebvre@restaurantscanada.org.

Marlee Wasser

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