Rachel Notley announces boycott of B.C. wine in retaliation to bitumen blockade

Alberta will no longer import British Columbia wines, Premier Rachel Notley announced Tuesday, the latest in an ongoing spat over the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Albertans spent $72 million on B.C. wine last year, with almost 95 per cent of all Canadian wine sold here coming from our western neighbour.

“We will not let the Government of B.C. hold Alberta’s and Canada’s economy hostage, and jeopardize the economic security of hundreds of thousands of working families across this province and across this country,” Notley told a news conference at the Alberta legislature.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will immediately halt the import of B.C. wine to Alberta. The AGLC will also focus on direct-to-consumer sales.

The latest move is in response to the B.C. government’s decision last week to restrict increases in bitumen shipments from Alberta until more spill response studies are conducted.

Instead of buying B.C. wine, she encouraged Albertans to think about their neighbours and their community, and “maybe choose some terrific Alberta craft beer instead.”

Notley hopes the moratorium doesn’t last long; in fact, she said, she wishes it didn’t have to be this way at all because it’s not the best solution for Canada.

As such, Alberta will revisit the ban on a regular basis as it monitors the response by B.C. and the federal government. She wants to see B.C. back down and the federal government clearly articulate that it won’t let the B.C. NDP apply illegal laws. 

“My immediate reaction is this is utterly stupid,” said Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees. His organization represents more than 1,000 members of B.C.’s private liquor industry, including liquor stores, pubs, bars and nightclubs.

“Punishing British Columbia wineries for something that they have nothing to do with is frankly … amateurishly political,” he said. “I think Albertans should be embarrassed their premier is advocating for it.”

He added he has no comment on the pipeline issue, but he trusts Albertans will divorce that issue from the B.C. wine boycott “and continue to drink some of the best wines in Canada if they so choose to.”

“Alberta doesn’t have a thriving domestic wine industry; they’ve got a great craft beer industry,” he added. 

At least one Alberta business is supporting the premier’s move. 

“I never thought it would go this far,” said Karen Collins on Tuesday from Fort McMurray. She stopped carrying B.C. wines at her restaurant Asti Trattoria Italiana last week in response to the pipeline news. “I’m very proud of our premier for taking the stance that she has.”

Collins said her boycott wasn’t an attack on small B.C. businesses but instead a way to stand up for Alberta — “our economy is being hurt here.”

Notley expects to update Albertans on a possible legal challenge “pretty quickly,” notwithstanding the fact B.C. has only threatened a new policy, and not implemented it. 

She said she would like to see the federal government jump onboard with such a court challenge. 

As for whether the wine boycott could lead to an Alberta beef ban or other unintended consequences, Notley said that’s a risk the province has to consider. 

But, she said, liquor distribution has always come under the purview of each province, so it’s likely not a huge risk. 

Is Alberta prepared to risk being hit by fines under the New West Partnership trade agreement?

“The cost of not going ahead with the Kinder Morgan pipeline is roughly $1.5 billion a year, just to Alberta trade,” she said, “so — yep.”

Source: Emma Graney, Financial Post