The leader of the BC United party is demanding support for the besieged wine industry and is lambasting the provincial government for twiddling its thumbs on the issue.
Kevin Falcon said in a Tuesday press release Premier David Eby and his government need to get behind the wine industry, which has been hammered by cold snaps and an Alberta government that is trying to halt direct-to-consumer B.C. wine sales to its province.
“British Columbia has made a name for itself over the past two decades as the source of world-class wines,” Falcon said. “The wine industry is integral to countless communities in our province, and without it there would be devastating effects on local economies, tourism and hospitality, and so many families throughout B.C.
“Successive BC Liberal, now BC United, governments have nurtured the sector with supportive tax and regulatory policies, and, as the sector now faces a difficult 2024 and beyond, it is vital that the current government facilitates supports to ensure B.C. wine can continue to thrive for generations more.”
The BC United party wants the government to:
• create an emergency working group with the B.C. wine industry and federal government to develop solutions and identify the level of financial support necessary for local wine growers and producers to survive the shortage expected to last for the next three to four years.
• prioritize the creation of a Canadian Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) certification.
• temporarily expand the existing tax incentives for wines with 100% B.C.-grown grapes to include wines produced in B.C. with 100 percent Canadian-grown grapes.
• work with the Ontario government and Ontario wine producers to reduce any barriers to importing Ontario grapes and juice so as to prevent the need for imports from Washington state.
• immediately schedule a meeting with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith to resolve the issue with Alberta actively harming the B.C. wine industry with no legal basis.
“With our B.C. wine industry facing the extraordinary challenges that nature has hit us with, the last thing we need is a politically motivated trade threat from Alberta,” Painted Rock Estate Winery proprietor John Skinner said. “We sincerely appreciate Kevin Falcon and BC United’s support of our efforts to find a peaceful and constructive solution to the trade issue.”
B.C. Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development Roly Russell released a statement on Monday, touting the NDP government’s support of the wine industry. That includes Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth’s meeting with his Alberta counterpart about the sales issue, last year’s launch of a perennial crop-renewal program, exemptions for minimum wine-production levels and offering climate-preparedness tools and resources to better protect growers against the increasing threats of extreme weather.