Alberta’s wine war with B.C. uncorks criticism

Reaction is pouring in after pipeline politics escalated into a wine war between Alberta and British Columbia.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has announced the province will ban imports of B.C. wine effective immediately.

It’s in retaliation to the B.C. decision to limit how much diluted bitumen can be shipped to the coast, which ultimately affects the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Bin 905 Wine & Spirits General Manager Geoff Last understands Notley is obligated to do what she can to help the energy sector, but he said this will fall at the feet of vintners.

“While it outwardly may seem to be a glamorous industry, they still have to work really hard to make a profit,” he explained. “Things are run fairly tight, especially in Canada where it’s a small industry.”

He doesn’t expect the ban to impact local retailers.

“Our B.C. section, I could replace those with European wines tomorrow,” said Last. “If all of these came off the shelf tomorrow, by Friday I could fill that space no problem, that’s not the issue.”

But Mark Von Schellwitz, Vice President of Restaurants Canada Western Canada, said the move will punish small businesses and consumers.

“We certainly don’t believe that using Alberta consumers and B.C. businesses as pawns and pitting them against each other in a provincial trade war makes much sense,” he said, adding it sets a dangerous precedent.

“Here we are, we’re trying to renegotiate NAFTA, we’ve successfully just negotiated a trade agreement with Europe, the TPP, and yet we have these internal trade disputes that we can’t seem to resolve,” said Von Schellwitz.

Notley estimated 17 million bottles of B.C. wines worth $70-million were sent to Alberta last year, however some experts think the retail value was more than double that.

B.C. Premier John Horgan released a statement urging Alberta to step back from this threatening position saying the province can make its argument in the court system.

He added he stands with B.C. wine producers and will respond to the unfair trade actions.

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