The Council of Federation – the grand name for the annual premiers’ meeting – has a gift for the anticlimactic. Last week’s premiers’ conference was headlined by discussions about interprovincial free trade, as promised. But action on trade? Not so much. Then, on the final day of the conference, Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia and Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan announced a momentous breakthrough. The people of their respective provinces will soon be able to legally order wine from wineries in the province, and craft spirits too.
That’s it? After Mr. Wall’s spirited threat to start a retaliatory interprovincial trade war if interprovincial trade barriers are not brought down, the resulting deal is, if we may refer to wine bottle sizes, the tinniest Piccolo rather than the promised Jeroboam.
As readers may have guessed, there are many more wineries in B.C. than in Saskatchewan, but there is no need for exact symmetry. (That’s why it’s called free trade, see?) Wine reciprocity will be in effect at or before the end of 2014. Craft spirits will be able to cross the relevant borders in June, 2015.
It’s odd that B.C. and Saskatchewan had to enter into a specific free-trade arrangement on this at all, considering that B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan are already members of an economic and trade area called the New West Partnership, a successor to an earlier Alberta-B.C. alliance called TILMA. The fact that it was necessary to do a special deal to let Saskatchewanians buy B.C. wine shows how fractured the country’s common market really is.