April 9, 2019 8:03 pm
Updated: April 10, 2019 2:49 pm

B.C. downplays tourism fears amid pipeline spat with Alberta, businesses call for cooler heads

WATCH: Alberta Conservative leader threatens to cut off B.C.'s gas supply


B.C. is downplaying concerns of a tourism backlash amid another brewing war of words with Alberta over the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The latest salvo in the battle came Monday as would-be Alberta premier Jason Kenney pledged to enact legislation to “turn off the taps” of gasoline to B.C. within his first hour in office if elected, and B.C. responding with a promise to take the issue to court.

WATCH: Kenney would use turn-off-the-taps legislation against B.C.

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During 2018’s “wine war” a #BoycottBC hashtag began to appear on social media, and in 2019 there are signs of a similar animosity — an editorial in the Calgary Herald this winter called for Alberta tourists to skip visits to “holier-than-though (sic)” B.C.

READ MORE: Albertans are B.C.’s 3rd biggest tourism spenders. Could trade war put that at risk?

Asked about a potential tourism boycott amid pipeline tensions, B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said Victoria is not concerned.

“Albertans love coming to British Columbia, we have a fantastic province full of natural beauty and we love welcoming Alberta visitors. They own property, they have vacation property, they spend a lot of time with their families here and we’re happy to welcome them,” Beare said.

“I think Albertans will continue to visit beautiful British Columbia.”

WATCH: B.C. bid to control Trans Mountain shipments

If they don’t, it could get expensive for the coastal province.

Data from Destination BC shows that Albertans spent nearly $1.4 billion on overnight visits to B.C. in 2016, behind only British Columbians themselves, Americans and visitors from the Asia-Pacific.

Click here to view data »

Leo Gebert, owner of Kelowna’s St. Hubertus and Oak Bay Estate Winery, said despite last year’s tensions he saw no dip Albertan visitors to his business.

In fact, Gebert said that Alberta’s ban on B.C. wines actually led to a run on his product last spring. But he said he sympathizes with the struggles Albertans are currently facing.

“The biggest concern is that the Alberta economy is still dragging its feet,” Gebert said.

“That has a way bigger impact on our industry here.”

WATCH: Future of the Trans Mountain Pipeline

He said he doesn’t worry business will take a dive amid renewed tensions, calling the dispute a political one — but added he’d like to see the politicians sort it out before things get ugly.

“The [other] concern I have is if some idiots out there think they should slash some Albertans’ tires while they’re here in B.C., that could have a way bigger impact, if it starts getting personal,” he said.

“It’s two kids kicking sand at each other in the sandbox”

But Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. said the concern about possible business disruptions is real.

“The last thing we want to do is to get into a war of words with Albertans that causes them to think twice about visiting our province,” he said. “We do rely heavily on visitors from Alberta.”

READ MORE: See you in court: B.C. responds to Jason Kenney’s threat to ‘turn off the taps’ day 1, if elected

Judas said areas such as the Okanagan or the Kootenays could be vulnerable in a spat, and said they likely saw a small impact last year.

WATCH: Okanagan wine industry celebrates end of Alberta boycott

However, he noted B.C. has weathered tensions and boycotts before, and said the fact that many Albertans own property in B.C. or have family west of the Rockies would likely help buffer any serious decline.

Like Gebert, Judas said he hopes that cooler heads will prevail and that the politicians will sit down and hammer out a solution.

“It’s not helpful, it pits people against each other, it’s not very productive in any regard and I’m not sure what the outcome is intended to be,” he said.

“Albertans are welcome. They’re always welcome. And after a while these issues tend to die down. The last thing you want to do is fuel the flames… it’s two kids kicking sand at each other in the sandbox, and we know the outcome.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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