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Dill pickle vodka for all: B.C. and Saskatchewan open liquor borders

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, left and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark share a light moment after announcing the lowering of trade barriers involving wine and some spirits on Friday, August 29, 2014.

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Even before most people had their first morning cup of coffee, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and British Columbia's Christy Clark were outlining a new deal to open up their borders to the free-flow of wine and craft spirits, including Saskatchewan's dill pickle vodka.

On the last day of the premiers' annual meeting, the early news was a further move to tear down the barriers to selling wines and spirits across provincial borders.

"This is a first step, another step in opening up trade between our provinces," said Ms. Clark in Charlottetown. "It will mean it is no longer illegal to bring B.C. wine into Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan wine into British Columbia for personal use."

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She added that the craft spirits industry will also benefit from the open borders.

Mr. Wall said the deal, made on the day when all of the premiers will be discussing internal trade, will allow "better access for consumers and a better economic environment for those in our country."

The two premiers are hoping, too, that their deal could lead to other barriers coming down across the country.

She noted that Manitoba has open borders to Canadian wines; Nova Scotia is close to finishing its regulations.

And Ms. Clark suggested that Ontario's Kathleen Wynne is "thinking positively" about bringing down the barriers in her province.

Ms. Wynne said Thursday that she and Ms. Clark had talked about the issue at last year's premiers' conference. "I have said to her, 'I would like to fix this.' I would like to work on this and make sure we can in the not-too-distant future make some changes. It's the kind of example of a specific issue, a specific concern that needs to be addressed as part of the broader discussion of the Agreement on Internal Trade."

The Saskatchewan and B.C. deal means that wine and spirits drinkers from both provinces can order "wines and craft spirits directly from producers and have them delivered to their doorstep," according to the news release, accompanying the announcement.

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It is expected that the new regime will be implemented by June 2015.

Currently, consumers were limited to wines and spirits that were only available for purchase through their provincial liquor stores. This new deal will give more choice for consumers - and new markets for the provincial wineries and distilleries.

There are more than 275 wineries in British Columbia.

Ms. Clark noted that her province was the first to open up its borders for wine - the measure was announced in 2012.

"We have felt almost no fiscal impact from that," said Ms. Clark. "It has been fantastic for consumers."

For its part, Saskatchewan has several wineries. But throughout the premiers' meeting, Mr. Wall has repeatedly promoted his province's dill pickle vodka.

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"I am hopeful that by the next Council of the Federation … Canada's borders will be open for wine right across this country," said Ms. Clark. "So get your bottle Osoyoos Larose today …"

Added Mr. Wall - "And dill pickle vodka."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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