EVERY day thousands of Canadians buy beer and spirits in one province and consume them in another. They are all breaking the law. Under the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, a Prohibition-era statute, this is a federal offence subject to a fine of C$200 ($190) the first two times you are caught. Any more and you risk a jail term up of to six months. ...200 craft brewers in a country of about 30 million: one for every 150,000 people. New Zealand's Brewer's Guild has about 45 small craft brewers (and a few larger ones) for a country of about 4 million people: one for every 89,000 people. And those are just the ones who joined the Guild. Beer Tourist lists 22 breweries in the mid South Island alone.
Canada’s 13 liquor boards (one for each province and the three territories) have become cash cows for their respective governments. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, deposited profits of C$1.7 billion into the government’s coffers last year. Almost all alcohol sold in the province passes through the board before being sold to commercial users and consumers. There are slight differences in the point of sale—you can buy beer and wine in convenience stores in Quebec and from private liquor stores in Alberta—but the common theme is that it all passes through a government body first, which makes money from mark-ups, permit fees and sales taxes (which they receive even if alcohol is sold directly to consumers). With so much money at stake, most of the provinces strongly opposed the move in 2012 to remove wine from the federal law and are likely to do the same when removing beer and spirits from the act is debated. A spokesman for the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions, the body that represents the combined provincial and territorial boards, defended the status quo last year, saying that the mark-ups on alcohol imposed by the boards helped pay for government services such as health care and education. If individuals wanted to buy wine from another province, they could always order it through a government outlet, he said.
Wine won exemption from the federal law mostly because of pressure from Canada’s 450 artisanal winemakers, who pointed out the absurdity of the current situation. “It is easier for our winery to ship 20 cases of wine to Beijing, Germany, Dubai, or Switzerland than to ship one case to our neighbour, New Brunswick,” Hanspeter Stutz, a vintner from Nova Scotia told a parliamentary committee at the time. Tourism officials and grape growers also backed the move. It is unclear whether Canada’s 200 or so craft brewers and about 20 distilleries carry the same clout.
Saturday, 2 November 2013
Another one drinks a moose
You couldn't get Moosehead Beer in Manitoba when I was a kid. Interprovincial trade barriers stopped retailers from selling a beer that wasn't brewed in the province. And so this SCTV sketch always seemed a bit ironic: it would be easier for a Canadian brewer to sell in some US states than to ship and sell interprovincially. The Economist highlights some of the problems with Canada's liquor boards.