Alcoholic beverages in Canada
This article covers various topics involving alcoholic beverages in Canada.
|Newfoundland & Labrador||6.5||11||93.3||3||7.3||10||8.0||4|
|Prince Edward Island||7.4||10||78.9||9||9.7||3||7.5||8|
|Values for wine, beer and spirits consumption are given in litres per person over 15, per annum. The total is expressed in litres of absolute alcohol.|
Under the Constitution of Canada, responsibility for enacting laws and regulations regarding the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages in Canada is the sole responsibility of the ten provinces. Canada's three territories have also been granted similar autonomy over these matters under the provisions of federal legislation.
This means that there is a separate agency (or agencies) in each province responsible for regulating the consumption of and, in all but one case, the sale of alcoholic beverages. Alberta is currently the only jurisdiction to have completely privatized its retail liquor industry (the AGLC maintains a monopoly over the wholesale distribution of wine, distilled spirits and imported beer - the distribution operation itself being contracted out to a private operator). Most of the other jurisdictions have maintained a total or near-total control over the sale of hard liquor while allowing limited privatisation of country-originated beer and wine sales.
Following enactment of the British North America Act, the federal and provincial governments disputed which level of government had the authority to issue liquor licences. Due to the leadership of Ontario Premier Oliver Mowat, the British Privy Council ruled in favour of the provinces with regards to this and other jurisdictional disputes. As a result, it was generally left up to the provinces to enact Prohibition when the temperance movement was at its strongest in the early 20th century. When Prohibition failed to curb the liquor trade, each of the provinces chose to replace it with tight government control of the liquor trade that persists to this day in most provinces.
In Canada, there is no federally defined age for legal alcohol purchase or consumption. Each province and territory is free to set its own drinking age. The legal age for purchase is:
- 19 years of age in BC, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, PEI, Saskatchewan and Yukon
- 18 years of age in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec.
In most jurisdictions, alcohol may not be sold to persons of legal age who intend to transfer it to minors. The SAQ also does not provide packaging for its products in order to make such sales explicit.
The selling hours of alcohol, both on and off-premises, are also appointed by provincial and territorial jurisdiction, as long as off-premises sale hours do not coincide with curfew hours. Many provinces and territories define the off-premises sale of hard liquor, either by alcohol volume or by quantities thereof, to be sold only within specific hours, which usually correspond to the opening hours of a given vendor. However, in some of them, it is also possible to derogate to the current norm upon applying for a distributor's licence, under certain circumstances. The on-premises sale is allowed at the discretion of the premise, with the hours being regulated by every province. In PEI and Nova Scotia, all sales of alcohol are forbidden during election days, for the length of the whole day.
In general, most provinces have banned "tied houses" (bars that are affiliated with only one alcohol supplier, in favour of free houses which sell products from a variety of suppliers. A partial exception is made for brewpubs where a bar and brewery are on the same site.
Ontario is the only province where the sale of alcohol follows the same principle as the sale of tobacco: upon request. All alcohol is sold only in specific locations where buyers have to ask for their choice. Starting 2014, there is also a 3,5% additional sale tax on products less than 20$, therefore making it more expensive than in Quebec (where the general 14,95% tax applies).
The consumption of alcohol in public places is generally forbidden, regardless of the time (in a few provinces and territories this is still not enforced), unless a permit to do so is delivered by the responsible municipal authorities. In all of the provinces and territories, the consumption of alcohol is forbidden while driving, with Ontario and Quebec also forbidding the possession of open non-empty containers within a motionless vehicle.
Following multiple accidents, Quebec will lower the maximum allowed alcohol blood content from 0,08% to 0,05% for drivers over 21 and over 2 years of experience starting 2015.