Alberta Politics

BC Wine Ban 2018: Notley picks her Mission Hill to die on

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.

7 replies on “BC Wine Ban 2018: Notley picks her Mission Hill to die on”

I rather think Notley will hope people spend their vacations east of the Rockies. Perhaps you mean west in the final para?

“… whether we will see the Notley Government escalate the trade war, by perhaps encouraging Albertans not to spend their summer vacations east of the Rockies… “ Typo, perhaps? Shouldn’t that read “west of the Rockies”?

Albertans seem to be divided into two groups here – those that are BC wine drinkers and those that are not. I am not much of a BC wine drinker, so this boycott will not impose any particular hardship on me, but according to some reports, 25% of BC wine is exported to Alberta. However, given the wide selection of wines we have, I suspect most Albertans will get by just fine. For those that feel the need to make a patriotic Canadian statement about their wine choice, perhaps the unexpected winner in this will be Ontario wines.

I think this wine boycott is the political equivalent of a warning shot – BC was off playing games and the Feds were focused on other things. I think Premier Notley has got everyone’s attention now. Hopefully, this will lead to a discussion where things can be worked out and resolved – before Christmas, for the benefit of those that might miss their BC wine.

Nope, Notley has not walked away from talks about power that will be produced at the site C dam and she has been careful to mention it. The talks they where involved into not did not include sire C. You are wisely refraining to predict a conclusion to the drama but so far it looks like Alberta can only be further isolated. There is a distinct possibility it could have disastrous consequences for Notley. All you need is for the bulk of Canada to start thinking drinking BC wine is cool and suddenly the court of public opinion has spoken. Very sadly for Notley, canadiens in general are quite tepid towards her pipeline and it won’t take much for the table to turn on her. So far The BC NDP looks like geniuses, and the Alberta NDP, also run.

Of course the wine boycott is not a path to pipeline victory. Any success is going to come though boring talks and procedural actions. But Notley had to be seen doing something. Visible action is a political necessity. From that point of view the wine boycott is perfect. It’s very visible, has a significant emotional weight for both electorates but doesn’t have the sorts of repercussions that are hard to walk away from down the road.

There’s the fight to stop BC from dicking around, and then there is the visible fight. They may have some overlap, but are not the same thing. But are both VERY important.

This is getting quite silly and I’m afraid this is only the start of more petty banter from our politicians. While this is obviously just a warning shot it’s certainly not going to win any political favours. Online comments are now turning so nasty and if they wanted a divide, well they got it. At least wineries and tourism companies can take advantage a bit ie …at least BC isn’t banning Alberta Beef!

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