NWT proposes increasing personal liquor limits at border


The NWT government is proposing legislation that would significantly increase the limits on liquor people can bring into the territory.

At the moment, you can bring no more than a litre of wine, 1.14 litres of spirits, or 8.52 litres of beer with you across the border without paying an importation fee.

The proposed legislative amendment increases those limits to nine litres of wine, three litres of spirits, or 24.6 litres of beer, cider or coolers.

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Explaining the change, the territorial government said the increased limits were the result of a 2019 commitment by all provinces and territories to “eliminating or decreasing personal importation limits” and improving “the cross-Canadian trade of alcoholic beverages.”

“To comply with the national commitments, the GNWT agreed to increase their personal importation limits,” states a summary of the bill containing the proposal.

The bill otherwise contains minor amendments to the territory’s liquor legislation.

Much broader changes to the rules governing liquor in the NWT are expected in the future, although when is a matter of debate.

A full review of the NWT’s liquor legislation was launched in 2020, opened for public comment in 2021, and is now in its final stages.

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Earlier this year, the territory said residents and businesses had asked for loosened restrictions, lower prices, simpler licensing with more flexibility, better education about liquor, and more control at community level.

Formal recommendations are expected this summer. “A bill to replace the Liquor Act could be introduced several months after that, based on the review’s final results,” the territorial government stated at the end of May.

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The personal importation limits, however, required “immediate attention,” the territory said, justifying its proposal of interim legislative amendments.

In the legislature this week, Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson questioned whether major revisions to the Liquor Act really would happen in the near future.

“I grow concerned by introducing this amendment to the Liquor Act,” he said of the interim measure being proposed.

“It is essentially a concession that we will not make any significant changes to the Liquor Act in the life of this Assembly.”