B.C. to challenge Alberta’s wine boycott under free trade agreement

B.C. plans to put the corkscrews to Alberta over its wine boycott by filing a formal dispute under Canada’s free trade agreement.

In a statement shared Monday, the B.C. government announced it is formally challenging the Alberta ban on B.C. wine that was announced earlier this month.

“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.”

The dispute is the first to be filed under the new Canada Free Trade Agreement, which was signed in July 2017. Alberta’s government has been notified that B.C. is “formally requesting consultation under the CFTA regarding Alberta’s actions to ban the sale of B.C. wine.”

“Alberta’s actions threaten the livelihood of the families that have worked so hard to build B.C.’s world-class wine industry,” said Ralston.

“These actions are inconsistent with Alberta’s obligations under the CFTA, and we will protect our reputation and the interests of British Columbians.”


Early this month, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced the province would restrict bitumen shipments from Alberta, in a move that was meant to disrupt the proposed twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline that extends from Alberta to the coast.

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In retaliation, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced a boycott of B.C. wine, although she denied it was a “trade fight.”

“Our country can’t work like this, but if it takes this kind of action to get Ottawa to act I’m afraid we have no choice but to stand up and defend Alberta’s interests,” she said in a video shared via social media.

B.C.’s wine industry says the retail value of the sector in Alberta is $160 million and approximately 30 per cent of wine sold in Alberta is produced or bottled in B.C.

When asked if B.C. would respond, whether by boycotting Alberta beef or other means of trade, Horgan said his government had no “intention to respond in any way to the provocation.”

Instead, the B.C. government proclaimed April would be B.C. Wine Month and said it is increasing opportunities to distribute B.C. wines in local B.C. Liquor Stores, including local wines from small and medium producers that would otherwise not be available for distribution beyond the wineries.

B.C. is also looking at increasing its push of BC VQA wines to new international markets.

There are 929 vineyards and more than 350 licensed wineries in B.C. The industry employs about 12,000 people and has an economic impact of $2.8 billion annually on B.C.

In 2016, B.C. wine exports topped $9.7 million and shipped to 17 international markets. Among the top markets were China (54 per cent), Taiwan (23 per cent) and the United States (11 per cent).

More to come.


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