B.C. to challenge Alberta ban on B.C. wine

Province has also launched appeal of NEB ruling

B.C. wines will eventually disappear from liquor stores in Alberta, thanks to a boycott.

The B.C. government is fighting back against Alberta’s boycott of B.C. wines, while simultaneously trying to fight that National Energy Board (NEB) over the Trans Mountain pipeline.


In response the B.C. government's moves to try to block the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the Alberta government announced a boycott of B.C. wines earlier this month, a move that could cost the B.C. wine industry $70 million a year, if it persisted that long.


On February 19, the B.C. government announced it plans to launch a legal challenge of the boycott through the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), which only went into effect last year.


"B.C.'s wine industry is an important contributor to our economy, creating good jobs and other economic benefits for people in B.C.," said Bruce Ralston, minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology.

"We're standing by our wine producers and the communities that rely on this important industry by launching a formal trade dispute, and we are confident we will be successful."


According to the B.C. government, it will be the first trade dispute between provinces to be launched under the new CFTA.


"Alberta's actions threaten the livelihood of the families that have worked so hard to build B.C.'s world-class wine industry," Ralston said. "These actions are inconsistent with Alberta's obligations under the CFTA, and we will protect our reputation and the interests of British Columbians."


Alberta, meanwhile, argues B.C.'s attempts to block oil from Alberta is inconsistent with the Canadian Constitution.


While Alberta’s boycott of B.C. wines is expected to cost the B.C. wine industry $70 million annually, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said blocking the Trans Mountain expansion would cost her government $1.5 billion a year in potential revenue from increased oil shipments.


When she announced that she would order Alberta Gaming and Liquor Control Board to put “an immediate halt” to the import of B.C. wines, Notley was asked by reporters if her government was prepared to pay up to $5 million in fines for breaching interprovincial free trade agreements.


“The cost of not going ahead with the Kinder Morgan pipeline is roughly $1.5 billion a year, just to the Alberta Treasury,” Notley responded. “So, yep.”


Notley has made it clear that the boycott of B.C. wines and cancellation of talks with B.C. over potential future electricity sales were just the first salvos in a trade war that she plans to escalate, if B.C. does not back off on its attempts to restrict any increased exports of diluted bitumen from Alberta through B.C.


She recently assembled a special advisory panel to advise her government on next moves. On February 16, she gave B.C. one week, and said it could expect more retaliatory measures.


But John Horgan's government has shown no signs of backing down in its effort to halt the pipeline’s expansion.


On February 17, the B.C. government announced it would seek leave to appeal an NEB ruling that gave Kinder Morgan Canada (TSX:KML) permission to ignore the fact the City of Burnaby had not issued permits allowing for work to proceed on the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby.