Alberta to stop importing B.C. wines into the province: Notley

Click to play video: 'Bitumen battle now a wine war between Alberta and B.C.'
Bitumen battle now a wine war between Alberta and B.C.
WATCH: Alberta’s government is banning B.C. wines after British Columbia vowed to halt the increased flow of bitumen. Gary Bobrovitz reports – Feb 7, 2018

Alberta’s premier fired another warning shot against British Columbia in the midst of a bitumen battle.

“The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) will put an immediate halt on the import of B.C. wine into Alberta,” Rachel Notley said Tuesday.

She said she’s heard by Albertans from all walks of life over the last few days and feels Albertans are “united” and “speaking in one voice” on this issue.

“We have to send a clear message to B.C now, by boycotting B.C. wine,” the premier said.

“The wine industry is very important to B.C… I know a lot of Albertans who love B.C. wine, quite frankly, I’m one of them.”

The premier estimated about $70 million a year is paid to B.C. wineries from Alberta purchases.

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According to the AGLC, 117 B.C. wineries are registered with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Authority, with a total of 1,460 wine products listed from B.C.

WATCH: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley fired back on Tuesday, announcing Alberta will stop importing B.C. wine.

Click to play video: 'Rachel Notley announces Alberta will stop importing BC wine'
Rachel Notley announces Alberta will stop importing BC wine

B.C. Premier John Horgan issued a statement in reaction to Notley’s announcement late Tuesday afternoon.

“Our government has every right to consult with British Columbians on the best possible measures to protect our lands and waters from the potential impacts of diluted bitumen spills,” the statement reads in part. “If Alberta disagrees, they can make that argument in the proper venue, in our court system. Our consultation on proposed new regulations hasn’t even begun, but Alberta has seen fit to take measures to impact B.C. businesses.

“I urge Alberta to step back from this threatening position. We stand with B.C. wine producers and will respond to the unfair trade actions announced today.”

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READ MORE: Alberta government suspends electricity talks with B.C. in response to proposed ban on increased bitumen shipments 

Watch below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has announced her province is boycotting B.C. wine in response to that province’s proposed ban on increased shipments of bitumen. Tom Vernon reports.

Click to play video: 'Alberta announces it’s boycotting B.C. wine over bitumen battle'
Alberta announces it’s boycotting B.C. wine over bitumen battle

“This could have a huge impact to our industry,” Christa-Lee McWatters told Global News. “The amount of wine that’s sold in Alberta is substantial.”

McWatters is chair of the BC Wine Institute and oversees all marketing activities for B.C.-based wineries. One of those wineries (TIME Winery in Penticton) is the official wine of the Calgary Flames and more than a third of their wine is sold to Alberta.

“I’m not sure what we’ve done to upset everyone,” she said when asked why the B.C. wine industry was targeted. “My gut would say it’s one that’s can be related to the average consumer and the industry because everybody likes British Columbia wine.”

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Still, the announcement shocked her.

“I’m not sure how our wine industry is connected to pipelines and the oil and gas industry.”

Some Edmonton business owners agree.

Paul Shufelt, the chef and owner of Workshop Eatery, says he’s “perplexed” by the move.

“It feels like someone throwing a temper tantrum, saying: ‘Well, if I can’t play with your toys, you can’t play with my toys.’ This is not the way a government should behave.

“Twenty-five per cent of our wine list is from B.C. We love supporting our neighbours to the west, we love their products,” Shufelt said.

“Why am I now going to now have to tell my guests, ‘Sorry, I cannot provide you 25 per cent of my wine list’ and I’m going to scramble to find alternatives to fill those gaps?”

Shufelt feels it’s yet another decision by the Alberta government that’s breaking the backs of small business owners, particularly restaurateurs.

Watch: After Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced her province will stop importing B.C. wine in response to B.C.’s proposed ban on increased bitumen shipments, a reporter asked her whether she felt the move would have a significant impact.

Click to play video: 'Notley responds to reporter asking whether wine ban will really have a significant impact'
Notley responds to reporter asking whether wine ban will really have a significant impact

B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman announced in late January that the province plans to ban increased diluted bitumen shipments off its coast until it determines whether shippers are equipped to clean up a spill.

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Notley said Alberta followed the rules and had the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion approved by the books.

She stressed the Alberta government is currently exploring ways to get Ottawa to step up and B.C. to step back.

She said this decision about wine is just one step Alberta plans to take in response to this “unprovoked and unconstitutional attack.”

The premier said the government won’t let B.C. hold Alberta’s and Canada’s economy hostage.

“I honestly wish it did not have to be this way,” Notley said. “We don’t take this lightly. Albertans didn’t want or invite this fight.”

She also said the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will step up enforcement of direct sales from B.C. wineries to consumers in her province.

“I’m also encouraging all Albertans, next time you’re ordering a glass of wine, think of our energy workers… and maybe chose some Alberta craft beer instead.”

Notley was asked if she’s worried about the B.C. government retaliating by boycotting Alberta beef, for instance. She said with decisions like this, you always have to weigh the potential risk but added: “I don’t know that they have the same ability to legislate boycotting of Alberta beef.”

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READ MORE: Calgary mayor supports Notley in BC-Alberta pipeline battle: ‘It’s time to show our strength’

Back in the Okanagan, McWatters hopes the issue can be resolved before it comes to retaliation.

“That’s just so un-Canadian of us,” she said. “I would hate to see it get like that. It’s not the fabric of who we are. We need to work together.

“I really hope that she reconsiders because it really could have a devastating impact on our industry, our agriculture… From our farmers to our manufacturers, to our distributors, to salespeople to restaurants… I just hope it can be rectified quickly.”

Watch below: After Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced her province will stop importing B.C. wine in response to B.C.’s proposed ban on increased bitumen shipments, a reporter asked her if she believes B.C. may try to retaliate.

Click to play video: 'Notley asked if wine ban could lead to retaliation from B.C.'
Notley asked if wine ban could lead to retaliation from B.C.

Notley has spoken out several times recently against the B.C. government’s proposal to obstruct the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion project by banning increased shipments of diluted bitumen to the province’s coast.

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The $7.4-billion project, approved in November 2016 by the federal government, would triple capacity on the 1,150 km line, which runs from Edmonton to Burnaby.

It’s the linchpin component of Alberta’s fight to get a better overseas price for its oil, which is currently being sold at a discount on the North American market while the province racks up budget deficits over $10 billion.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray restaurant pulls B.C. wines amid bitumen battle 

Last week, an Italian restaurant in Fort McMurray stopped serving wines from B.C. in response to that government’s plan to ban increased oil shipments.

Asti Trattoria Italiana said in a Facebook post that it had removed eight B.C. wines from its menu.

“I looked in my heart and my love of this community and this province and I decided to remove B.C. wines at this time from my menu, based on the decision and proposal of the B.C. government, Premier [John] Horgan’s decision to cut back on our bitumen,” owner Karen Collins said.

“I am very much in love with my community, and we’ve taken some huge hits in the last couple of years. We had the wildfires and we had the downturn of the economy and every little thing that we try to do to get back on our feet, something comes along and knocks us down again.

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“Yes, I’m just taking off the wines, but that’s my little voice of protest,” Collins said.

“It’s nothing against the wineries. I have a lot of respect for the wineries… but if they can feel even an ounce of the pain that we’re feeling, I want them to convey to their government to stop this lunacy.”

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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