Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Black Press files)

Ponoka store owner to ‘wait and see’ if wine ban a concern

Alberta ban on importing B.C. wine not expected to have much effect until AGLC supply dwindles

A ban on bringing British Columbia wine won’t likely affect local aficionados for a while, if at all.

On Feb. 6, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley called a news conference to announce the government will immediately place a moratorium on importing B.C. wine products. The move is a bid to put pressure on the government to cancel its plan to hold up and delay the construction on the federally approved Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Although, even with the ban in place, B.C. wines will remain available on shelves in Alberta for about a month. That’s the length of time the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) believes the stock currently being held in its warehouses will last.

Even that timeline may be shortsighted, according to one Ponoka business owner.

Chad Jones, owner of The Liquor Store, went online just days after the import ban was announced and was able to receive all of the products he ordered.

“They probably have about a 30-day supply of the more popular B.C. wines,” he said.

“For the wines that are fairly slow for sales, they will likely last a lot longer than that.”

Jones added, “I don’t really expect it to affect us that much right now. We still have about four weeks before it even gets to that point and I don’t think it will last that long.”

The ban would affect about 17 million bottles of B.C. wine that Alberta imports annually, worth around $70 million to the B.C. economy.

On Jan. 30., B.C. Premier John Horgan announced the government would restrict increased shipments of bitumen while it further studies the effectiveness of spill response and cleanup, as part of phase two in its oil spill response plan.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would triple the transport of oil from 300,000 barrels a day to 900,000.

At the news conference, Notley called the B.C. plan an attack on an already approved project and theat Albertans themselves came up with the idea for a response.

“Albertans are united on this issue and we are actively prepared to continue to ask the federal government to step up and tell B.C. to back down,” Notley stated, noting there needed to be a clear message sent to B.C. with the lack of a response from the Trudeau government.

“Let’s be clear, Albertans didn’t want or invited this fight. This pipeline will support tens of thousands of jobs that we need to protect. We play within the rules and B.C. is expected to do the same. 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.”

And when Notley was questioned by reporters about the possible $5 million fine if Alberta’s move is found in violation of the trade pact between the four western provinces, she was matter of fact about it.

“For a project that would contribute $1.5 billion to Alberta’s economy each year, I think I can stomach $5 million,” she said.

The wine ban comes on the heels of Alberta calling a halt Feb. 2 to further talks with BC Hydro about purchasing electricity from the under construction Site C dam for an estimated $500 million per year.

Since Notley’s announcement, a Fort McMurray Italian restaurant nixed B.C. wines and called on other Alberta establishments to do the same.

Restaurant Canada called out Alberta, claiming it’s a reckless decision that will punish small businesses and consumers.

“It is using Alberta consumers and B.C. businesses as pawns and dragging them into and pitting them against each other in a provincial trade war,” the organization said in a news release.

According to the British Columbia Wine Institute, Alberta makes up 11 per cent of the BC VQA market.

“As a country, we are trying to strike down domestic and international trade barriers and this decision moves us in the completely wrong direction,” said Mark von Schellwitz, vice president for the company’s western Canada branch.

*With files from Ashley Wadhwani

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