Breaking down provincial boundaries

When a defiant Terry David Mulligan stepped out of his car just east of the B.C.-Alberta border last May with 10 bottles of out of province wine on board, he was rolling the dice that could have stuck him with a costly conviction.

But getting charged for violating the antiquated law against transporting liquor across provincial boundaries was a risk the legendary broadcaster was proud to take. He wants fellow Canadians to have the freedom to enjoy wines they love, regardless of which province they are bought in.

“It was not a stunt,” Mulligan told The Province recently. “I thought long and hard about this, and being a former Mountie, I knew exactly how the game was played,” said Mulligan, now co-host of two wine shows, Holly-wood and Vines and Tasting Room Radio.

Despite announcing his intention to break the law to authorities beforehand, no officer from the nearby RCMP detachment in Lake Louise arrived to arrest him. Dan Albas, the Conservative MP from Okanagan-Coquihalla, has taken the wine crusade to the floor of the House of Commons.

His private member’s bill to repeal the 1928 law, introduced in October, has passed second reading and is headed to the finance committee. If all goes well, it could be passed into law this summer.

That would allow wineries in every province to ship small amounts of wine nation-wide. “It’s good for B.C. and it’s good for Canada,” said Albas, who has more than 100 wineries in or within an hour’s drive of his riding.

Albas called the current law “regressive” and costly for small, family wineries, which stand to profit the most by a change in the legislation.

“A lot of [boutique wineries] would increase their production, so they would have to hire more employees,” he said.

Tourism is a lucrative sector of the economy in wine country. “People don’t just come here for the golf or the beaches any more, they come for the wine,” said Albas.

Miles Prodan, executive director of the B.C. Wine Institute, expects the final hurdle for Albas’s bill will be the various provincial liquor control boards, which sell wines from all over but usually for a hefty fee.

“They potentially could be concerned that it will take away from their revenues,” he said, noting Premier Christy Clark has recently come out in favour of changing the law.

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