Sour grapes: Albertans react to boycott of B.C. wines

Alberta wine buffs aren't happy with the premier putting a cork in B.C. wine imports.

'You're attacking a business ... and you're telling me what I can drink and I can't drink'

Premier Rachel Notley announced Tuesday Alberta will stop importing B.C. wines. The boycott became effective as soon as she made the announcement Tuesday. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Alberta wine buffs aren't happy with the premier putting a cork in B.C. wine imports.

"Albertans are very fond — and I am one of them — of B.C. wines, and frankly, I find it quite annoying," said Paul Hastings.

Premier Rachel Notley announced Tuesday "an immediate halt to the import of B.C. wines into Alberta" in response to B.C.'s proposed restriction on oil shipments.
Paul Hastings is a fan of B.C. wines, and says the boycott will hurt B.C. wineries and Alberta liquor merchants. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The inter-provincial spat will hurt businesses in both provinces, said Hastings, who was shopping at Edmonton's Spirits on Jasper liquor store on Tuesday night, hours after the ban was announced. 

"I think it is [an] inappropriate move on the part of the government of Alberta to threaten the livelihood of liquor merchants in the province of Alberta.

"You're attacking a business, potentially threatening livelihood and you're telling me what I can drink and I can't drink," he said.
Bob Maddigan said the B.C. wine ban is a "joke." (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Bob Maddigan was also shopping for B.C. wine in downtown Edmonton Tuesday night. 

"I just bought a bottle of B.C. wine and I'll be drinking it in 15 minutes," Maddigan said with a laugh.

He said he thinks the ongoing dispute is a joke, and likened the wine war to the recent fight between Saskatchewan and Alberta over licence plates on construction sites.

"It's no different than them battling Alberta plates in Saskatchewan," he said.

Maddigan said B.C. Premier John Horgan is fighting the proposed pipeline expansion to appease the Green Party. The two parties agreed to form an alliance in May 2017.

"He's got no choice but to support this, otherwise the Green Party turns on him and he loses his job," Maddigan said.
Colour de Vino owner Juanita Roos says she fully supports the boycott of B.C. wines. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Regardless of the B.C. government's attempts to thwart the pipeline, Maddigan said the project will continue as planned. The $7.4-billion project was approved by the federal government in 2016.

"The pipeline will go in," he said. "B.C.'s not going to decide. It's a federal decision."

Wine merchant Juanita Roos loves B.C. wines, but is in complete support of Alberta's boycott.

Roos, the owner of Color de Vino on Whyte Avenue, said she believes a lot of her customers also support Notley's decision to escalate the inter-provincial spat and fight for approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. 

"We have to be sensitive to what the consumers want here," Roos said. "Obviously a lot of our customers are affected by the oil industry, so financially it's a big concern." 

Fort McMurray restaurant owner Karen Collins refuses to serve B.C. wines alongside her pasta. (David Thurton/ CBC)

The boycott will have little financial impact on B.C. wineries, she said. 

"Most of the B.C. wineries, especially the ones we deal with, are small producers," Roos said. "So I think they're already selling a good portion of their wines locally and overseas."

A threat to wineries and liquor merchants

Fort McMurray restaurant owner Karen Collins supports the wine boycott.

The owner of Asti Trattoria Italiana dropped B.C. wines from her restaurant menu five days before Notley announced the boycott.

Collins said removing the wines wasn't an attack on wineries, but an attack on the B.C. government. She said the B.C. government's proposed sanctions on bitumen imports hurt her business and the community.

It's an indirect hit on their economy, but unfortunately there are always casualties.- Karen Collins, Fort McMurray restaurant owner

"It affects my business indirectly. And in a sense, that's kind of what I feel about B.C. as well," she said. "It's an indirect hit on their economy, but unfortunately there are always casualties."

Collins said she's hopeful the B.C. government can be pressured into dropping its restrictions on Alberta oil, which would end the boycott.

Plenty of customers have told Collins taking the wines off her menu was the right thing to do, she said. But she has also received calls from B.C. wineries that aren't happy with her decision.

"It's got nothing against the wineries," she said. "It's against what the B.C. government's policies are."

Premier Rachel Notley announced Tuesday Alberta will stop importing B.C. wines. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)