Winemakers in Nova Scotia and those fostering this new industry got a boost last week when Nova Scotia Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald took action to eliminate provincial trade barriers on Canadian wines.
Winemakers here will soon be able to export their products to customers across Canada as other provinces follow suit. MacDonald has announced her plan is to change the law to allow people to import 100 per cent locally-grown and produced Canadian wine into Nova Scotia for personal use.
The finance minister indicated she will encourage other provinces and territories to take the same kind of action. According to Gerry McConnell, who owns Benjamin Bridge Winery in Gaspereau, the potential market for wine could grow from one million people to about 30 million people across the country.
Back in June, the federal government opened the door for the individual importation of wine. Nova Scotia is going to be joining British Columbia and Manitoba on a list of Canadian provinces allowing direct importation by individual consumers.
While introducing the Importation of Wine for Personal Use Act at Province House, MacDonald suggested that when other provinces begin to remove their provincial barriers, there will be new growth potential for Nova Scotia already fast-growing wine industry.
A provincial government news release suggested that wine aficionados will also soon be able to order special wines from other provinces for their personal use.
It was Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison who offered his private members’ business slot in June to help push forward Bill C-311, overturning a Depression era law that made it illegal, with a few exceptions, to carry alcohol over interprovincial boundaries. The bill left the rule making up to the provinces, so the laws vary.
All the parties appeared to agree that the old rules stifled the growth of Canada's wine industry. After all, wine making seems to be flourishing across the nation. It hardly makes sense that Canadian consumers should be fined or go to jail for moving even the smallest amount of wine across provincial borders, but that was the intent of the previous legislation. No doubt, the other provinces will be catching up to Nova Scotia before long and allowing a reasonable amount of wine to be shipped across borders.
While we welcome changes to liquor control legislation around this province’s wine industry, there are other aspects to the wide dissemination of alcohol – and not all of them positive. Alcohol over consumption can be very costly for taxpayers who are forced to pay for policing.
A Manitoba community is looking at implementing a three per cent liquor tax to pay for RCMP services. Currently, the town council in Swan Lake is getting ready to debate the notion. Swan Lake’s single biggest expense right now is RCMP costs and councillor believes much of the work they do relates to alcohol problems.
In Manitoba, the municipal taxation and funding act allows municipalities to impose a liquor tax through bylaw, but they have to ask the provincial government for approval. In Swan Lake - a town with about the same number of residents as Wolfville - council wants to find a way to ease the burden on property owners.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has already pooh-poohed the booze tax proposal, arguing towns and cities ought to cut spending instead of looking for additional money.
Several new local levies have been raised by municipalities across Canada. The annual Association of Manitoba Municipalities conference this week will also debate the idea of pushing the provincial government to add a two per cent handling fee on school taxes, but we will be waiting to see what happens to the notion of a new booze tax.