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Mixed feelings over B.C. wine boycott

The St. Albert business community has mixed feelings when it comes Premier Rachel Notley’s boycott of British Columbia wines. Notley announced the boycott in response to the B.C. government making efforts to stall the Kinder Morgan Inc.

The St. Albert business community has mixed feelings when it comes Premier Rachel Notley’s boycott of British Columbia wines.

Notley announced the boycott in response to the B.C. government making efforts to stall the Kinder Morgan Inc. Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The $7.4-billion project would twin a pipeline that sends oil from Alberta to the West Coast.

Doug Hicks, owner of Hicks Fine Wines, said Notley’s decision is only going to make it more difficult for businesses that import B.C. wine.

“There are some companies that all they do is bring in Canadian wines and (Notley) is willing to tell them, you’re not going to make any money,” he said. “I don’t think she thought it through completely.”

He said Hicks Fine Wines sells around 40 different types of wine from about 20 B.C. wineries. Some of his selection includes Black Hills and Burrowing Owl.

Many customers tend to purchase wine from France and Italy over B.C., but that doesn’t mean he’s unaffected by the boycott.

The boycott stems from the B.C. government's efforts to delay or stop development on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Even though it got the green light from the federal government, the B.C. NDP said they wanted more spill studies completed.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he had concerns over how diluted bitumen would impact the environment if a spill were to occur.

On Thursday Horgan said the government would not be retaliating against Alberta’s boycott.

When it comes to how much B.C. wine Alberta still has, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission said they have around a month left before their reserves run dry.

Michelle Hynes-Dawson, spokesperson at the AGLC, said she’s received mixed responses from Albertans over the wine boycott.

Hynes-Dawson said according to one liquor store owner, some customers were switching from B.C. wines in support of the government while others were rushing to stock up.

“It’s kind of evening out,” she said. “But it’s a bit too early to be able to tell trends that way, if things are slowing down or speeding up.”

She said last year the AGLC imported around 17.1 million bottles of wine from B.C., which amounts to around $70 million.

Jennifer McCurdy, president and CEO of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, said she’s worried how the boycott will impact local hotels, restaurants and liquor stores.

“They still have B.C wine on their menu, so then if they offer to sell it still, is that going to be a bad PR move for them?” she said. “Yet there’s inventory sitting in their cellars.”

She worries that the businesses will have to find other sources to buy wine from, a task that takes time.

Ken Kobly, president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce said that the provincial organization stands behind Notley.

“I would suggest that the wine thing was probably a very measured, calculated approach on her part,” he said. “Nobody likes to see a trade war between provinces.”

Kobly said the federal government needs to intervene in the trade war. He said both the Liberals and the National Energy Board approved the pipeline in 2016.

“And here we are in 2018 with a provincial government basically seeking to challenge the constitution of power of the government of Canada,” he said.

He said there would be an impact on Alberta’s businesses, but the impact wouldn’t be significant. Kobly said businesses would sell different wines from other places.

Willie White, head chef at Double Tree Hilton and Mayfield Dinner Theatre, said he felt the premier didn’t consider how the boycott would affect Alberta’s small businesses.

“It’s sad that the politicians are again affecting the restaurant industry with silly things like this,” he said. “It’s really affecting the general public. If they are going to a restaurant and they want to drink their favourite B.C. wine, they should be able to do that.”

White, a St. Albert resident, was the owner, operator and chef at the former River House Grill in St. Albert. Now at the Double Tree Hilton, he said B.C. is a popular wine among customers.

“Trudeau should have stepped in and sorted this out,” he said. “It’s something that should have been sorted out before it got to this stage.”

Molly Flahavan, general manager at XIX Nineteen, said the ban didn’t really impact the business. There’s only one B.C. wine on the list, one that’s seldom ordered.

“It gets ordered every once in a while, but not often,” she said.

If the boycott doesn’t end before they run out of supply, Flahavan said they would simply remove it from the list.

Dayla Lahring

About the Author: Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.
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