Podcast #70 – Free My Grapes

I used to live in the last town in New Brunswick before the Nova Scotia border and the RCMP used to set up road blocks to check people’s trunks for booze. Nova Scotians would drive to our liquor store in New Brunswick to get their beer cheaper because the taxes were lower and then drive home. Little did they know that they did not really live in a free country and that taking things from one province to another was illegal.

So what? Border towns always have that problem if there is an imbalance between prices. It used to be (and still is sometimes) that gas was cheaper in the USA and so people would go and fill up across the border and buy a stash of Hershey bars and a bag of Combos. And if you were there for longer than 48 hours, you could bring back a couple of bottles of wine or liquor duty-free.

Fine. Each country has its own rules and I agree with that. The last things we need in Canada are slow speed limits and discount ammo. At least there is a way for us to legally bring home the wines and booze when we want to. However, there is no such way of legally bringing  alcohol from another province in our own country. Why is that? I thought we lived in a free country?

Money is the main reason for most of the world’s stupidity and of course that’s the main reason here too. The taxes on your bottle of wine won’t go to your own province and that is apparently a big deal for the income of your provincial government. They think that they are missing out on the zillions of dollars that tourists from out of the province spend on wine in other provinces.

Wineries, especially small wineries, are the ones who would really like to be able to send you those cases of wines that you ordered. But they can’t legally do that! There are some brave wineries who will quietly send out cases. They brave the frigid air of extra-provincial trade with the knowledge that they may be punished with… A LETTER. (Thanks to Brad Cooper for posting his copy of “The Letter” on his blog.) Quite a few wineries received this letter from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission and most wineries obeyed and ceased shipments in response. So that still begs the questions, how is it that our country makes criminals out of tourists, who buy wine on their vacation in the Okanagan, and some winery owners who live in Alberta and can’t take wine home with them? Something is wrong with this picture.

That’s where you, the loyal and stalwart wine consumer come it. There’s a new movement growing called Free My Grapes.ca and it is one of the first nation-wide organized movements to get the laws reformed for wine and spirits in Canada. The laws we have now were written a long time ago (83 year, but who’s counting?) and were written as a response to that bizarre social experiment known as Prohibition. Perhaps at time when the movement of goods beyond one’s own region was more difficult, it may have made more sense. But today, with the global markets from around the world getting a first crack at other markets within our own country, small and medium wineries are going to be left out. According to Shirley-Ann George in this special podcast interview, entire wine regions (such as Nova Scotia) might be left behind if they continue to be coralled in their own region.

Even in a time when we are trying to consume more locally, giving a legal edge to foreign companies for access to markets in our own country is wrong and makes the problem even worse. Let’s do something about it.

Click here to listen to the podcast, or download it at iTunes.

Check out the Free My Grapes website and follow them on Twitter.

Don’t forget, we are currently in the middle of the federal election! This is the perfect time to ask your local candidates for their views on this subject. Check out Know Your Vote.ca or follow them on Twitter.