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Alcoholic beverages in Canada

This article covers various topics involving alcoholic beverages in Canada. The government of Canada defines an alcoholic beverage as "a beverage containing 1.1% or more alcohol by volume." [1]

Comparative consumption

Statistics Canada carries out surveys of alcoholic consumption in Canada, divided by territory/province.[2] Average values for the country in 2006 are given in the bottom row of the table.

Wine Rank Beer Rank Spirits Rank Total Rank
Yukon 18.3 1 90.6 1 13.8 1 12.7 1
Northwest Territories 8.1 7 55.2 5 10.8 2 9.2 2
Alberta 13.9 4 89.8 4 7.6 9 8.6 3
Newfoundland & Labrador 6.5 11 93.3 3 7.3 10 8.0 4
British Columbia 14.5 3 76.6 12 9.0 7 7.8 5
Ontario 11.8 5 84.3 6 8.8 8 7.8 6
Quebec 17.4 2 93.9 2 4.1 12 7.8 7
Prince Edward Island 7.4 10 78.9 9 9.7 3 7.5 8
Nova Scotia 8.0 8 79.5 8 9.1 5 7.5 9
Manitoba 8.0 9 76.8 10 9.4 4 7.4 10
Saskatchewan 5.0 12 76.8 11 9.1 6 7.0 11
New Brunswick 8.4 6 79.8 7 6.8 11 6.7 12
Nunavut Data unavailable
Canada 13.1 85.6 7.5 7.8
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.

Legal issues


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:[3]

In most jurisdictions, alcohol may not be sold to persons of legal age who intend to transfer it to minors. The SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec, or Quebec Alcohol Corporation) 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.


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.


  1. ^ "Labeling Requirements For Alcohol", Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Retrieved on 14 April 2015.
  2. ^ "SAQ Annual Report" (PDF). Société des alcools du Québec. Retrieved 2006-06-04. 
  3. ^ Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

See also