Posted on Feb 13, 2018

Sherwood Park MLAs Support B.C. wine ban

Sherwood Park News - February 13, 2017

The provincial ban on imports of B.C. wine is receiving support from local MLAs.

Recently, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission (AGLC) has been directed not to purchase anymore wine from British Columbia, as a result of the B.C. government’s action against the Sherwood Park-based Trans Mountain pipeline.

“I believe that after B.C. announced their proposal that would move to ban shipments of bitumen off its coast, they needed a wake-up call,” said Strathcona MLA Estefania Cortes-Vargas.

“That proposal would impact thousands of Alberta jobs and an industry that supports Canada’s economy. They are trying to supersede a federal authority.”

Cortes-Vargas’ statement acknowledges the pipeline expansion project’s approval by the National Energy Board, as well as by the federal Liberal government.

“That’s why we need the federal government to step up with more than just words,” she added, echoing Notley’s push for Trudeau to take action on B.C.’s plan, which the premier said is “unconstitutional.”

“We need them to act,” Cortes-Vargas added. “In the absence of concrete steps for Ottawa, we are standing up for Alberta. That’s why we implemented the B.C. wine boycott.

“We are always willing to come to the table to figure out a way to move forward, and we need willing partners to do the same.”

Sherwood Park MLA Annie McKitrick also voiced her support for the B.C. wine boycott, although she admitted the move caught her by surprise.

“As a person with roots in France, I have a bit of knowledge about wine disputes in Europe, but I never thought that it would be something I would be involved in as an MLA,” she said.

“The decisions of B.C.’s government impact all Canadians,” McKitrick explained, referring specifically to their actions against the Trans Mountain project.

“We cannot let B.C. jeopardize our economic security here in Alberta. People in Sherwood Park know that our resource sector benefits all Canadians. This is not a B.C.-Alberta issue; it’s a B.C.-Canada issue, and as Canadians, we have to stand together.”

Cortes-Vargas said she believes good trade relationships are “critical to a functioning economy,” adding: “That’s why I, and Albertans across the province, will not stand by and be the only provinces impacted by B.C’s refusal to play by the rules.”

The move has drawn ire from B.C. wine producers, with Miles Prodan — president of the B.C. Wine Institute — saying vinyards are being used as “a political football.”

Last year, Alberta imports of B.C. wines amounted to $72 million wholesale, but as Prodan pointed out, that adds up to a closer figure of $160 million at the retail level. The completed Trans Mountain line is expected to create $1.5 billion in revenues to the Alberta treasury on an annual basis, according to the province.

McKitrick noted local constituents have shown support for Notley’s ban, adding “they want us to stand up for Alberta jobs.”

“They also want this to come to a resolution,” she noted. “No one wants a ban, but they know we need to stand up for Alberta.”

That was a similar message to what Cortes-Vargas has been hearing on the ground, as she explained residents have been vocal on the debate.

“Constituents in my riding, from all walks of life, have reached out about the ongoing campaign to protect Alberta jobs from the unprovoked and unconstitutional attack on the Trans Mountain pipeline launched by the Government of B.C.,” Cortes-Vargas said.

“I have heard from constituents that they want us to find a solution with B.C.”

She noted she has also spoken with constituents who say they want a “better picture of how this works.” To that point, Cortes-Vargas explained that in 2017, the AGLC imported roughly 17.2 million bottles, or more than 1.4 million cases, of B.C. wine.

For McKtrick, though, the issue is really about hammering home the nationwide impact of the Trans Mountain line, adding Alberta’s resource sector all of Canada, including B.C.

“We won’t back down because we know Albertans need a government that has their backs,” she said on Friday. “We are sending a clear message to Ottawa that they need to step up and show leadership

“My hope is we can resolve this issue respectfully now that we have the country’s attention. I call on people in Sherwood Park to write to the B.C. government and to the prime minister to stand up for the national interest and our natural resources.”

Cortes-Vargas went on to assert that in addition to AGLC imports, the provincial commission will also step up its enforcement of direct-to-consumer sales.

“It’s imperative that we send a clear message to B.C. and to Ottawa — they need to step up,” she said. “This is our economy. We’re working for Alberta jobs, and our right to get our product to tide water should be respected.”