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Alberta accused of ‘gatekeeping’ B.C. wine shipments

'Gatekeeping' BC wine

UPDATE 12:40 p.m.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission issued a statement to Castanet about its decision.

“AGLC has identified suppliers from outside of Alberta that are shipping product directly to Alberta consumers,” reads the email.

“Suppliers from other provinces that offer direct-to-consumer shipping are in contravention of provincial legislation, are bypassing Alberta’s private liquor retailers and liquor agencies and are impacting the dollars that go to the General Revenue Fund that supports projects and services Albertans rely on,” said the statement.

The AGLC says that in order to maintain the integrity of that province liquor model and protect the interests of Alberta retailers and liquor agencies, it has notified the suppliers in B.C. that all shipments must stop effective immediately.

“Once a supplier agrees in writing to immediately stop direct-to-consumer sales to Albertans, AGLC will resume accepting shipments and continue to support the distribution of these products through legal channels.”

AGLC contends that there are no barriers to trade or to listing Canadian wines in Alberta and extensive opportunity for Canadian vintners to market their products.

“To help ensure integrity and a level playing field for industry, we continually monitor compliance through investigations.”


ORIGINAL 12:07 p.m.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission is cracking down on B.C. wineries that ship wines to individuals in Alberta.

The AGLC has sent a letter to wineries advising them to cease shipping directly to consumers in that province. In response, Summerhill Pyramid Winery has posted a notice on its website saying that it is no longer able to ship wine purchases to an Alberta address.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but this is outside of our control and we are obligated to comply with all local Alberta laws and regulations. You are of course still able to have your wine shipped to an address in another Canadian province,” wrote Summerhill.

The crackdown by AGLC comes in the wake of back-to-back disastrous cold snaps that have seriously impacted many wine growers in the Okanagan Valley.

Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola MP Dan Albas calls it “gatekeeping”.

“The liquor monopoly in Alberta wants to create a firewall, wants to have a full, complete monopoly where any Albertan can only buy through them. And it doesn’t matter to them that there are thousands of different types of wines from British Columbia that they couldn’t possibly stock on their store shelves. And they’re basically trying to stop anyone from selling their product,” said Albas, who fought for years to get federal legislation changed to bring down interprovincial trade barriers.

Unfortunately, wine was excluded from the 2017 Canadian Free Trade Agreement between the provinces. Albas wants to see changes to the Canada Post Act to get around the “gatekeeping” by the AGLC.

“I believe that we should have modest changes to our federal law, in this case the Canada Post Act, that would allow for anyone to be able to ship, whether that be a private retail store in places like Alberta, a B.C. winery. Anything or anyone across the country should be able to use Canada Post to send a little something to their friends and relatives, so that they can try a little bit of our B.C. wine,” he argues.

The notice posted by Summerhill Pyramid Winery points out almost all of its wines are available at Alberta liquor stores, but if they are not, customers can request them through the AGLC warehouse. That’s not the case for smaller producers.

“Let’s point out the obvious. There are many small B.C. wineries that do not produce enough to sell to the BC liquor monopoly, let alone the Alberta one,” said Albas. “So when these kind of heavy-handed pronouncements come down, it’s usually on the medium and larger sized operators who have to comply with this because guess what? That’s a very big stick that these monopolies have.”



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