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Alberta boycotts B.C. wine in pipeline dispute

Alberta has halted all B.C. wine imports until further notice. It’s the province’s latest effort to put pressure on the B.C. government to stand down on environmental regulations it announced on Jan.
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Eric Hanson provides tasty wine picks for holiday celebrations. Photo submitted

Alberta has halted all B.C. wine imports until further notice.

It’s the province’s latest effort to put pressure on the B.C. government to stand down on environmental regulations it announced on Jan. 30 – ones that would restrict increase shipments of diluted bitumen, potentially hindering Kinder Morgan’s $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

“This is one good step to waking B.C. up to the fact that they can’t attack our industry without a response from us,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday.

This is the second time Alberta has retaliated against B.C.’s new rules. The first move was suspending talks around buying B.C.’s electricity, a deal that could see B.C. lose $500 million annually.

“I know a lot of Albertans who love B.C. wine. Quite frankly, I’m one of them,” said Notley. “Just like I know a lot of British Columbians who love to drive their cars, fly in planes and heat their homes using Alberta energy products.”

The premier noted in 2017, B.C. wine imports equaled roughly 17.2 million bottles (about $70 million).

“I’m also encouraging all Albertans, next time you’re thinking about ordering a glass of wine, think of our energy workers, think of your neighbours, think of our community, think about our province and maybe choose some terrific Alberta craft beer instead,” said Notley, adding her government doesn’t take the moratorium lightly.

Restaurants Canada, an organization made up of 30,000 food service businesses, opposed Alberta’s decision and said it punishes small businesses and consumers.

“As a country, we are trying to strike down domestic and international trade barriers and this decision moves us in the completely wrong direction,” Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president, Western Canada, said in a statement.

Maurice Hamilton, owner of Pacific Breeze Winery in New Westminster, told the NOW three quarters of the wine industry is made up of small businesses.

“The big guys could handle the downturn way better than the small guys. I just think it’s sad they would pick on an industry like that that’s got nothing to do with the problem,” he said, adding his winery doesn’t sell to Alberta but would welcome the business.

“I don’t think (the moratorium) will last. I think Alberta’s just flexing their muscle, trying to get a reaction because they’re not happy. This will certainly do that.”

The Edmonton-to-Burnaby pipeline expansion project, once complete, would nearly triple the pipeline’s capacity. Alberta is eager to get its oil to overseas markets, but B.C. wants to look at restricting the increase in dilbit shipments until an independent panel can study whether if and how heavy oils can be safely transported and cleaned up, if spilled.

The Alberta premier said her government is looking at other tactics should B.C. not comply.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained the project is in the national interest and that it will get built.

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