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Politicians rally around B.C. wine bill

From left: Premier Christy Clark, MLA Bill Barisoff, MP Dan Albas, Poplar Grove president Tony Holler, and mayor Dan Ashton raise their glasses to the B.C. wine industry. - Steve Waldner/ Western News Staff
From left: Premier Christy Clark, MLA Bill Barisoff, MP Dan Albas, Poplar Grove president Tony Holler, and mayor Dan Ashton raise their glasses to the B.C. wine industry.
— image credit: Steve Waldner/ Western News Staff

Premier Christy Clark was in Penticton Friday afternoon to show her support for a bill which, if passed, would further open B.C.’s wines to the rest of Canada.

At a rally supporting Bill C-311 at Penticton’s Poplar Grove Winery, Clark spoke to the frustration current laws cause local winemakers and the demand the rest of Canada has for B.C. wines.

“Wouldn’t it be a shame if it was easier to get our wine to China than our wine to Ontario?” Clark said.

Current laws make it illegal for consumers to move liquor across provincial borders. While this can be an inconvenience for consumers, for liquor distributors it creates even more of an issue, as they are unable to ship wine to personal consumers in other provinces.

Bill C-311 would see amendments made to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to allow the sale and shipment of wine across provincial borders for personal use, within quantities established by the provinces.

The premier pointed out the original law was put in place in 1928 as a measure against bootleggers.

“So it’s time to put an end to these old, archaic laws, because our winemaking industry has been in their stranglehold for far too long,” Clark said.

“The opportunity for free trade between provinces is phenomenal,” said Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton. “It’s disappointing to me that something we grow here in the Okanagan cannot be shared throughout Canada.”

The private member’s bill, tabled by Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas, will soon be decided upon.

“The fact that we can soon possibly send B.C. wine to regions all across this great country and build our Okanagan economy at the same time is very exciting news,” Albas said.

Tuesday, the bill underwent third reading, and if passed, will be making its way into the Senate.

The Okanagan Valley is home to more than 120 wineries. Should the bill go through, it would essentially open a whole new market to B.C.’s wineries — one much closer than China.

The prospect of a new market has local winemakers excited.

“With this bill, at Poplar Grove we’re going to have to expand again because so many people love to buy our wines across Canada, but they can’t,” said Tony Holler, president and owner of Poplar Grove Winery.

Holler also extolled the benefits the amendment would have for the economy.

“The consumer is going to be a big winner, the wine industry is going to be a big winner and Canadians are going to be winners because of more jobs — higher paying jobs,” he said.

 

Albas, in a weekly MP report, cited the number of jobs currently being directly involved or supported by the wine industry at 3,300 — a number he said could grow should the bill go through, via wineries such as Poplar Grove expanding.

 

 

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