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Montreal Gazette: Canadian wines get short shrift in Quebec

Along with 13,000 other thirsty enthusiasts, I attended La Grande Dégustation de Montréal earlier this month. The event featured booths from 160 wine and whisky producers from 19 different countries, offering visitors a chance to imbibe 1,200 unique products.

The yearly event is organized by the AQAVBS, Quebec’s association for wine, beer and spirits dealers and importers, and its main partner is the Société des alcools du Québec, the only authorized seller of most wines and all spirits in the province.

This year, the event’s spotlight was on Argentinian and Chilean wines, showcasing a booming world wine-producing region. However, another booming wine region was all but ignored: Canada.

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Montreal Gazette: New Brunswick beer ruling will help open up interprovincial trade

On April 29, New Brunswick provincial court judge Ronald LeBlanc ruled in favour of Gerard Comeau, who had been charged with transporting beer and liquor from Quebec into his home province.

New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act limits how much alcohol a person can possess that does not originate from the provincial liquor board. The judge ruled that the limit constituted a trade barrier, violating Section 121 of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867 which says that goods shall be “admitted free into each of the other provinces.” He recognized that the Fathers of Confederation were adamantly clear that free trade between provinces was one of the reasons for creating a new country.

While Comeau drove to Quebec to stock up on cheaper beer, Quebec also has erected its own walls that restrict Quebecers’ access to out-of-province booze.

For individuals, the law prohibits importing more than 12 bottles of wine, three bottles of spirits, and 72 bottles of beer from another province. Want to bring back an extra case of wine from that trip to Niagara? Better watch out for a RCMP sting operation. Hope that British Columbia winery can send you a few bottles? Not a chance.

Not many are fazed by the current law — the SAQ loses $90 million of taxes and markups per year from alcohol purchases outside the province — but as Comeau found out, enforcement can happen anywhere, without notice.

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National Post: Quebec’s ‘married name’ law is paternalistic and dumb

Some Canadians might view the PMO directive that Justin Trudeau’s wife be always referred to by her hyphenated surname as a gesture to gender equality. Despite her union to Canada’s most powerful man, Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau has challenged a paternalistic social construct by opting to keep her maiden name. Because it was 2015, right?

However, what Canada’s “first couple” is actually doing is giving Quebec’s Civil Code the middle finger — and good on them for it.

Since 1981, it has been illegal for women in Quebec to change their surname when they marry. Since Trudeau and Grégoire married in 2005 in Montreal, she has had no right to share names with her husband — or their children, for that matter.

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Montreal Gazette: Artisanal distillers shouldn’t be left out of Quebec’s liquor-sale liberalization

Think of a spirit made in Quebec — one of the first to pop in your mind will likely be PUR Vodka, Ungava Gin, or maybe even Piger Henricus gin. These small Quebec liquors have all won multiple international awards for taste and quality, and continue to impress spirits aficionados around the world. The SAQ has also dedicated thousands of your taxpayer dollars to advertise them, increasing their reputation.

Now, think of a Quebec wine — any wine. Having trouble? Unlike our spirits, the SAQ has done little to promote wines with a Quebec terroir, and few have won widespread international recognition. Though Quebec has great wine to offer, most people simply don’t know about them.

So it’s a bit of a turnaround to see the government now making it harder for distillers to do business in the province, while making it much easier for everyone else.

Quebec’s Minister of Finance recently tabled Bill 88, An Act respecting development of the small-scale alcoholic beverage industry. Most of the measures in the bill are very welcome. For one, Quebec alcohol producers will be allowed to sell their products directly to grocery stores and dépanneurs, giving them the same rights as breweries. Breweries and other alcohol producers will also be allowed to sell bottles of booze directly at the point of production, bringing the province in line with the rest of the civilized world.

But here’s the catch: To be able to sell anything that isn’t beer outside the SAQ, the alcohol must only be made from fruit, honey, or maple syrup — when’s the last time you enjoyed a good maple wine? — and it has to contain less than 16 per cent alcohol by volume.

This clause has locked Quebec’s artisanal distillers out from liberalization. The minister has effectively decided that distillers have no right to operate like normal businesses.

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Montreal Gazette: Quebec should get rid of the SAQ and privatize alcohol sales

Is it relevant for the state to be involved in the retail sale of alcohol in 2015?

In a report released Monday, Quebec’s Ongoing Program Review Committee answered this guiding question with a resounding “no.”

Chaired by former politician Lucienne Robillard, the committee was tasked by Premier Philippe Couillard with reviewing program spending and suggesting inefficiencies to cut.

It didn’t call for the privatization of the SAQ, unfortunately. Instead, the committee advocated liberalizing the sale of alcohol, leaving the SAQ to compete with private companies much the same way Canada Post competes with FedEx and UPS.

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National Post: So it looks like Mulcair is a hypocrite. What a relief

Standing five weeks into the election campaign, there is only one federal leader who has promised to limit the size of government, exalted the virtues of the free market, and talked about the need for a private health care system.

Unfortunately, that leader is Thomas Mulcair … from 15 years ago.

Quebec’s media had a blast last week digging up old footage from Thomas Mulcair’s time in the National Assembly, which seems to put him in a bit of an awkward position. Though he currently leads Canada’s socialist party, his past statements put him further to the right than the 2015 version of Stephen Harper.

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National Post: Kill the tax credit, reduce taxes

In 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took some heat for telling the Globe and Mail, “I don’t believe that any taxes are good taxes.” Judging by his time in office, he was grossly exaggerating.

Since the Conservatives first won a minority government in 2006, the length of the Canadian Income Tax Act has expanded by nearly a quarter. This country’s tax laws now tower above Canadians at a whopping 3,134 pages. According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, it has grown by 3.4 per cent over the last year alone.

Now, the Conservatives have not increased taxes per se, some have been eliminated and decreased. But their preferred method of tax relief comes from tax expenditures like tax credits, which unlike actual cuts, have the adverse effect of piling on new clauses and conditions to an already confusing system. You still initially owe the same amount, but checking off more boxes on your growing tax form entitles you to get bigger reimbursements.

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