Beer Between Provinces

Further amendments have been made to the federal Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to allow for the movement of beer (and spirits) between provinces for personal use. The bill which amended this Act, Bill C-31, received Royal Assent on June 19, 2014.

Until this change, it was illegal for you to take that great craft beer you found on your last trip to say, British Columbia, back on the plane with you to Ontario (or in the car, for that matter, if you were inclined to drive all the way back). Bringing a 24 purchased at a Beer Store in Ottawa to a dinner party in Gatineau makes you a smuggler and the beer bootleg. Of course, we thankfully don’t have checkpoints at provincial borders or customs agents to deal with at the end of a domestic flight, so not too many people got caught. The IILA did, however, interfere with the use of couriers to ship beer across provincial borders.

Section 3(1) of the IILA reads:

3. (1) Notwithstanding any other Act or law, no person shall import, send, take or transport, or cause to be imported, sent, taken or transported, into any province from or out of any place within or outside Canada any intoxicating liquor, except such as has been purchased by or on behalf of, and that is consigned to Her Majesty or the executive government of, the province into which it is being imported, sent, taken or transported, or any board, commission, officer or other governmental agency that, by the law of the province, is vested with the right of selling intoxicating liquor.

Section 3(2) has rather a lot of exceptions to this general rule. The most important one is that the section above does not apply to:

(h) the importation of wine, beer or spirits from a province by an individual, if the individual brings the wine, beer or spirits or causes them to be brought into another province, in quantities and as permitted by the laws of the other province, for his or her personal consumption, and not for resale or other commercial use.

The underlined words are the most recent amendment. Subsection (h) was actually added in 2012, but only applied to wine at that time. The long and short of it is that it is now–according to federal law–legal to bring that case of craft beer back to your own province or to use FedEx or UPS to ship a case to you. Great news, right?

Not quite. The provincial liquor authorities still have a monopoly on the sale and distribution of beverage alcohol within their jurisdictions. While there is no longer any federal impediment to ordering that case of craft brew from BC, you still (in Ontario) need to deal with the LCBO, and its deep-seated need to squeeze every tax dollar possible out of that refreshing, tasty beer. The government monopolies are unlikely to part easily with absolute control. Newfoundland, for instance, has dinged FedEx for shipping “contraband” wine in from BC despite the 2012 changes to the IILA permitting interprovincial imports.

After the wine change, BC opened up for imports from other provinces. Manitoba is wide open, too.  The world doesn’t seem to have ended, and BC and Manitoba do not seem to be any more or less bankrupt than they was before. BC has not yet said what they are going to do about beer… something tells me that the brewery lobby in BC may not have quite the same power as the winery lobby. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Posted in Import/Export

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