Relations between two Canadian provinces have turned vinegary in an escalating row over oil and wine.
The oil-rich region of Alberta announced a ban on wine imports from neighbouring British Columbia amid the brewing dispute over a contentious pipeline expansion.
The quarrel began last week when British Columbia’s provincial government called for further studies of the risk of spills if the Kinder Morgan pipeline is expanded from Alberta to Vancouver’s coastline.
In response, Alberta’s premier, Rachel Notley, walked away from negotiations to purchase electricity from BC – a yearly deal worth $400m.
Then late on Tuesday, Notley instructed the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to immediately halt all imports of British Columbia wines. “The wine industry is very important to BC. Not nearly as important as the energy industry is to Alberta and Canada, but important nonetheless,” said Notley at a press conference.
British Columbia’s premier, John Horgan – like Notley a member of the leftwing New Democratic party – called the ban “unfair”.
“Our government has every right to consult with British Columbians on the best possible measures to protect our lands and waters from the potential impacts of diluted bitumen spills,” Horgan said. “Our consultation on proposed new regulations hasn’t even begun, but Alberta has seen fit to take measures to impact BC business.”
Vintners in the region are also sour on the idea. “We are shocked that the Alberta premier and government are aggressively boycotting BC wineries over a yet-to-be-determined British Columbia government policy in a different sector,” said Miles Prodan, president of the BC Wine Institute, which represents 276 wineries.
He added that the potential cost of the ban is close to $127m – double Notley’s estimate. Alberta is a key market for British Columbia wines – almost 95% of all Canadian wines sold in Alberta stores come from its western neighbour.
For Albertans puzzling over their next drink, Notley had some advice. “Think of our energy workers. Think of your neighbours. Think of our community. Think about our province, and maybe choose some terrific Alberta craft beer instead.”