B.C. wineries already feeling effect of Alberta boycott
Published Wednesday, February 14, 2018 12:13PM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 14, 2018 7:22PM PST
British Columbia wineries say they're already feeling the effect of Alberta's boycott on their products as the two provinces feud over the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
"What's happening in Alberta is horrifying. We were so surprised at such an aggressive act," said Jennifer Molgat, president of The View Winery and Vineyard in Kelowna, B.C. "Fifteen per cent of our sales are in Alberta, so this is really affecting us."
According to Molgat, wineries like hers are no longer allowed to ship to the neighbouring province. Once the current stock is used up, there will be no more B.C. wines on Alberta liquor store shelves.
In addition to some $72 million in annual losses for B.C. businesses, Molgat said that absence will likely have a profound and lasting effect on the industry's reputation.
"As soon as that consumer grabs an import wine off the shelf, that's it. They've now made a new friend in the wine world and they may not choose our wines again," she said, adding that the sanction "counteracts all the hard work we've done to make these relationships in Alberta and get the consumers loving our wines."
In a show of support for B.C.'s wine industry, the provincial government proclaimed April as "B.C. Wine Month" Wednesday.
The event is aimed at boosting the sale of the province's wines and includes a special, month-long promotion at all public liquor stores.
“B.C.’s wine industry is made up of family-run vineyards and wineries that have chosen farming and wine-making as their passion and their profession,” Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham said in a statement.
“In addition to delivering fantastic wine, they also provide good jobs in communities throughout the province, and we are proud to shine a spotlight on the work they do and the wine they make."
The news came as Alberta Premier Rachel Notley held her first meeting with a new task force she says will defend the province from B.C.'s "unprovoked and unconstitutional attack" on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
"The Task Force will consider options for economic and trade responses to B.C.’s proposed restrictions and other attempts to frustrate progress on this important project," the Alberta government said on its website.
According to the page, one of the group's eight main objectives will be to "prepare responses to market access decisions and policy changes in other provinces over which Alberta has limited influence."
Notley unveiled the 19-member panel Friday, Alberta's latest move in a heated battle over the $7.4 billion energy project, which would allow the province to triple its oil shipments to the West Coast.
In late January, B.C.'s environment minister said the NDP plans to ban increased shipments of diluted bitumen to the coast until it can determine adequate spill response plans are in place, despite existing federal approval for the Kinder Morgan project. B.C. will establish an independent advisory panel to study the issue.
Notley responded on Feb. 6, announcing her province would halt the import of B.C. wines.
B.C. Premier John Horgan has said the province would not retaliate against the sanction. He has also denied the possibility of a boycott on Alberta beef.
Horgan also clarified this week that B.C. only plans to restrict bitumen shipments after the review is done and if it finds the restrictions are warranted.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is in talks with both premiers about the need to get the pipeline built, but would not say whether Ottawa will intervene in the trade war between them.
And as Notley warns of further retaliation against what she calls plans to hamper the pipeline expansion, Molgat is urging the province to avoid making any rash decisions.
"I think the Alberta government needs to calm down," she said.
"It's never a bad idea in business or life in general to just slow down, look at everything with calm and re-evaluate."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan and The Canadian Press