If you are an Albertan who enjoys British Columbia wines, now is the time to rush to your privately-owned and operated liquor store to purchase your favourites before it is too late.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley opened up a new front in the Great Constitutional Pipeline War of the Rockies today when she announced that the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, the government agency responsible for purchasing and distributing wine, will no longer purchase B.C. wines.
This wine ban is a response to the BC Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman’s announcement that his province would effectively block the expansion of the Kinder Morgan corporation’s Trans Mountain Pipeline by limiting “the increase of diluted bitumen transportation until the behaviour of spilled bitumen can be better understood and there is certainty regarding the ability to adequately mitigate spills.”
In their first salvo, the Alberta Government withdrew from talks to purchase electricity from B.C.’s new Site C Dam near Fort St. John. But the B.C. wine ban has turned the war of words into the beginnings of a trade war.
Alberta purchases of BC wine account for around $70 million a year and the ban is meant to put pressure on the BC government of NDP Premier John Horgan (who’s party holds no seats in the Okanagan region) to back down and the government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa to intervene.
Horgan responded by pointing out that the pipeline dispute has, until now, been not much more than a war of words, admitting that the consultation process proposed by Heyman has not even begun.
Trudeau has voiced his support for the pipeline expansion, but pro-pipeline voices like Notley has called on him to enforce trade sections of the Canadian constitution to stop the BC government’s delay tactics. Both the Alberta and BC governments have tied their political fortunes to the success and failure of the pipeline, which may be a big reason Trudeau could be reluctant to intervene.
It is also unclear what an intervention by the federal government would actually look like.
While the Alberta Government may have a stronger constitutional case, it is important to not completely dismiss concerns that British Columbians might have, including concerns about increased oil tanker traffic on the Pacific Coast. ‘Bringing British Columbia to their knees,’ as some Conservative partisans have suggested, will not create a welcoming environment for any future oil pipeline development.
It is unclear to me whether the wine ban will work or whether we will see the Notley Government escalate the trade war, by perhaps encouraging Albertans to spend their summer vacations east of the Rockies.
Disclaimer: As he wrote this post, the author enjoyed a glass of the 2012 Pinot Noir from Serendipity Winery. In the event this trade war is not over by Christmas, he has a healthy supply of BC wine stockpiled in a safe and undisclosed location.