B.C. wine ban in Alberta hurts small businesses and consumers

Reactions of the trade war in the food and wine industry

Okanagan Falls. Photo from BC Wine Institute.
Okanagan Falls. Photo from BC Wine Institute.

A recent decision by the Alberta government to ban the import of B.C. wine into the province has left a number of Alberta restaurants, retail shops and import agents disappointed. What initially started as a pipeline dispute between the two provinces appears to have turned into an all out trade war, with small businesses from both provinces and Alberta consumers as the newest casualty.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2014, the Alberta government imported over $17.6 billion in goods from British Columbia; but according to recent comments by Premier Notley, only $70 million of interprovincial trade is in support of B.C. wineries. So, it would appear that this recent move by the Alberta government proves to be more of a publicity stunt than a prudent financial move, with many pointing out that those who stand to suffer most are the B.C. wineries and the Alberta businesses and consumers who support this sector of the B.C. economy.

A common sentiment among those in the wine and hospitality industry in Alberta following this news is the devastating effect this will have on the farmers, families and small business (winery) owners in British Columbia as well as the import agents in Alberta whose portfolios include B.C. wine and not least, Alberta consumers.

Mike Burns, beverage director for the Calgary-based Teatro Group says, “Losing that source of local products will affect our ability to cater to the extensive tourist business our locations attract – many of whom have not tried B.C. wines.”

“Many of the importing partners we depend on for wines from B.C. and everywhere else would be horrifically affected by this loss of revenue, resulting in higher prices of agencies closing—a loss for all parties—but mostly the average Albertan consumer.”

Burns goes on to speculate the future of events like Big Taste Calgary, which is a collaboration between Calgary restaurants and the BC Wine Institute, drawing in hundreds of diners during the month of March.

According to an earlier press release from BC Wine Institute, 30 per cent of all wine sold in Alberta is from B.C. and that “a working free-trade relationship between Alberta and British Columbia is imperative to securing economic well being in Canada.”

“We are disappointed that this political decision is threatening our progress and threatening the successes that have benefitted small businesses in both the Alberta and B.C. economies.”

One Alberta wine shop manager noted that, “While we are in support of the Alberta government and their efforts to improve the economy at home, we are disappointed by the recent decision made by the premier. It hurts to know that our friends in B.C. will have to suffer while our two provinces battle it out. Their passion and dedication to their craft is something we have been proud to share with our customers over the years and it hurts us to know that they are the ones being punished by this misguided decision.”