There’s going to be even more wine for British Columbians to drink now that Albertans are forbidden from buying it.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley ordered her Liquor Control Board to immediately “halt to the import of B.C. wine to Alberta,” according to her Twitter. “I’m hearing from Albertans everywhere I go is that we have to send a clear message to BC to make our point. We can do that by boycotting BC wine.”
She’s mad about B.C. Premier John Horgan’s resolve to make sure the Kinder Morgan pipeline doesn’t get twinned.
Alberta has Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on their side of the pipeline debate, though he hadn’t weighed in on the wine dispute before press deadline.
“That pipeline is going to get built,” Trudeau said at a town hall meeting last week.
Horgan says the project isn’t in the interesting of British Columbians, and to the people who are suggesting that he can’t stop it from happening – “Well yes I can,” he said in defiance at a rally in West Kelowna on Feb. 1.
Local MLA Dan Ashton, whose party supports the twinning of the pipeline, is not very happy with Notley for dragging wine into fight.
“To those wine producers affected – it’s not their fight and it’s wrong what Premier Notley has done and dragged them into this,” he said. “You don’t solve issues through trade disputes … I find it funny how a substantial number of Premier Notley’s back office people are from B.C.”
Ashton wants to see Prime Minster Justin Trudeau step in and figure out a resolution.
“Go into a room, close the door and don’t come me down til you figure something out.”
He also believes John Horgan is under political pressure from Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, who gives the NDP the slight majority they need to run the province.
After leaving Weaver disappointed with the decision to approve the Site C Dam, “This is the NDP giving something to the Greens,” Ashton said
Ben Stewart, who owns the Quail’s Gate Winery and is also in the running to become a Liberal MLA again, says the trade dispute is a byproduct of the BC NDP’s inexperience in government.
“The message they’re sending to the public is that they’re not open for business,” he said. “It undermines the credibility that British Columbia’s worked very hard to rebuild.”
Stewart doesn’t believe Notley’s decision to involve the wine industry will speed up the pipeline dispute. He said it’s a ploy for attention that will only end up hurting small producers.
“This kind of dispute should be something they deal with in courts, not by starting a trade battle.”
It’s a vulnerable time of year for wine producers to be taking this kind of hit, Stewart said, as cash-flows are typically at their lowest after making investments for the entire season, and many of those investments were counting on the Albertan market.
Paul Graydon, owner of Saxon Winery in Summerland, says eventually “this is all going to blow over and be back to normal,” though he doesn’t expect the wine embargo to speed up the pipeline dispute either.
He says his distributor in Alberta is always stocked up with about four weeks worth of product, but he thinks that might go fast in light of the ban.
“It will be like the breadline,” he said. “There will probably be a high demand.”
John Skinner, owner of Painted Rock Winery in Penticton, said it’s now easier to ship his wine to China than it is Alberta.
Beyond the economic damage, Skinner said the trade war has created a toxic environment between customers.
“This is very un-Canadian. They’ve got to get back at the table. It’s incumbent on the fed to make this happen, Trudeau’s gotta step up … The wine industry is being used as a bargaining chip right now.”
MP Dan Albas says the trade dispute will cost the regional economy if it’s not quickly resolved.
“I heard from one small family run winery owner who now faces the challenge of what happens with the 6,000 cases of wine ordered in Alberta. Mortgages, payroll, taxes and utilities all must be paid for this winery to survive.”
Albas says he fully supports Prime Minister Trudeau’s insistence that the project is in Canada’s national interest and must move forward
Like Ashton, Albas believes the NDP is using the pipeline issue to appease their Green Party colleagues and environmental activists who feel let down by the Site C decision.
“This is one way to show their support to that coalition,” he said.
But the pipeline issue is in the interest of the entire country, Albas says, and federal law will veto any provincial interests.
“If Horgan wants to rewrite rules federally, he should get elected as Prime Minister,” he said.
“The value of this project is just under $7-billion and will create 15,000 new jobs during construction. This pipeline will also generate $4.5 billion in federal and provincial government revenues. It should also be noted that this project replaces the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton, AB, and Burnaby, B.C. This existing pipeline is now over 50 years old.”
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is also asking the feds to step in.
“Boycotts between businesses in two provinces will not resolve an issue that is ultimately our federal government’s responsibility,” the Chamber said in a press release. “The federal government needs to act now by engaging directly with the province of British Columbia and ensuring that the fair and scientifically-sound decisions on the (Kinder Morgan) Trans Mountain pipeline are carried out.”
Before the embargo, 30 per cent of all wine sold in Alberta came from B.C., the industry’s second largest market next to B.C. itself.
By Dan Walton