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Alberta has threatened to stop importing wine from British Columbia as a result of the provinces' ongoing feud over Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion.
Premier Rachel Notley made the announcement Tuesday, following news that its neighbour to the west will restrict increased shipments of bitumen while it further studies the effectiveness of spill response and cleanup.
The Trans Mountain expansion is a controversial pipeline proposal of the Texas-based Kinder Morgan, that upon completion, will triple the capacity of an existing system to ship up to 890,000 barrels of oil per day from the oilsands to Burnaby, B.C.
Notley says Alberta currently imports about 17 million bottles of wine worth $70 million annually from B.C. wineries. According to the BC Wine Institute, 30 per cent of all wine sold in Alberta is from B.C., with a retail value of more than $160 million.
Alberta is the most important market for B.C. wine after B.C. itself, says the institute, and a recent poll conducted by the Canada Vintners’ Association indicates that 85 per cent of Albertans support interprovincial direct-to-customer wine shipping.
'They can't attack our industry'
"This is one good step to waking B.C. up to the fact that they can't attack our industry without a response from us," Notley said Tuesday following a meeting with her cabinet. "I honestly wish it did not have to be this way. We don't take this lightly. Albertans didn't want or invite this fight."
The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will step up enforcement of direct sales from B.C. wineries to consumers in her province, she added.
"I'm also encouraging all Albertans next time you're thinking about ordering a glass of wine, think of our energy workers. Think of your neighbours. Think of our community. Think of our province, and maybe choose some terrific Alberta craft beer instead."
Last week, Notley said Alberta was suspending further talks on power purchase agreements with B.C. worth up to $500 million annual to that province's coffers. She has called B.C.'s attempt to hinder the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion an unconstitutional attempt to get around federal approval of the project.
British Columbia wineries respond
Following Tuesday's announcement, the BC Wine Institute released a statement expressing shock and disappointment in Notley's maneuver.
"We are shocked that the Alberta premier and government are aggressively boycotting B.C. wineries over a yet-to-be-determined British Columbia government policy in a different sector," wrote president and CEO Miles Prodan.
"The B.C. wine industry has worked hard to build a positive relationship and partnership with Alberta, particularly in the wine, culinary and tourism sectors, including having collaborated on multiple campaigns directly with the AGLC (Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission)."
Prodan said he was "disappointed" that a political decision is threatening the success of small businesses across both provinces and vowed that the institute will continue its mission to expand its sales for more than 275 B.C. grape wineries.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce also chimed in on feud between the provinces, calling on the federal government to take immediate action to resolve the dispute. In a press statement, it asked Ottawa to engage directly with B.C. to ensure that a "fair and scientifically-sound" decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline is carried out.
“The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is deeply concerned about the negative impact an interprovincial trade war would have on the economies of Alberta, British Columbia and, ultimately, Canada. The announced escalation of retaliatory trade measures will leave businesses of all sizes, their owners and their employees caught in the crossfire," it said.
“Boycotts between businesses in two provinces will not resolve an issue that is ultimately our federal government’s responsibility."
Likewise, the Toronto-based Consumer Choice Center condemned what it characterized as a "trade war" between the two provinces. North American affairs manager David Clement said in a press statement that Canadian consumers should not be "political pawns" in "disputes that have nothing to do with them."
"Sparking a trade war within Canada will only hurt consumers and producers in both provinces, and come at a significant cost for Canadians who don't want their favourite drinks to be used as pawns in political debates," he said. "That being said, plans for the pipeline have proven to be safe and responsible, and B.C. should no longer delay the project that so many Canadians are counting on."
As a result of construction and permitting delays in B.C., completion of the Trans Mountain expansion — approved in November 2016 by the federal government — could be delayed until December 2020.
— with files from The Canadian Press
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. to include comments from the BC Wine Institute, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Consumer Choice Center.