British Columbia

Parliamentary wine contest a cruel joke, says B.C. winery owner

Some winery owners in the B.C.'s Okanagan region are surprised a federal member of Parliament is inviting them to ship wine to Ottawa for a contest — despite laws making the shipments illegal for ordinary people.

Special rules allow MPs to buy B.C. wine unavailable to public

Provincial laws make it illegal to ship B.C. wine to Ontario and some other provinces, but federal MPs have an exemption, which makes possible the Great Canadian Parliamentary Wine Competition.

Some winery owners in the B.C.'s Okanagan region are surprised a federal member of Parliament is inviting them to ship wine to Ottawa for a contest — despite laws making the shipments illegal for ordinary people.

Miranda Halliday, who owns Elephant Island Orchard Wines in Naramata, says the letter from Ontario MP Eve Adams came across as a cruel joke.

"Almost laughingly frustrating. It seemed sort of hysterical at some level," says Halliday.

It's one rule for the politicians and a different rule for all the other Canadians.— Lawyer Mark Hicken

The letter from the MP invited Halliday to participate in the Great Canadian Parliamentary Wine Competition.

Winners are invited to sell cases of their wine directly to parliamentarians and their staff, the letter reads.

Halliday says it's confusing, because there are provincial laws and interprovincial trade barriers that prohibit wineries from shipping to Ontario — trade barriers Halliday and others in B.C. have been fighting to remove.

"It's that resigned frustration. It's just been going on for so long," says Halliday.

She also notes the letter from MP Adams also arrived by Canada Post four days after the deadline for submissions, so she couldn't have entered the wine contest even if she wanted to.

"It would probably have been better tagged the great Ontario Parliamentarian Wine Competition. Because honestly I don't know who else would be able to enter at this point," says Halliday.

Vancouver lawyer Mark Hicken says parliamentarians have exemptions to the trade barriers, meaning they can buy the B.C. wine when others can't.

"You know it's one rule for the politicians and a different rule for all the other Canadians," says Hicken.

MP responds

On Friday afternoon, Adams responded, telling CBC News that the letter Halliday received was sent out by her constituency office by mistake.

"So, the letter to the winery should have only be sent to those that are listed by the LCBO in Ontario, and so that is where this hiccup came from," Adams said.

Adams also said she's on the same side as B.C. wineries when it comes to allowing them to ship their wine into Ontario, and that her government has already lifted trade barriers for selling wine across Canada.

She says it is now up to each province open its doors to interprovincial trade.

With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan

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