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Hope alive for liquor bill after 'mistake' delay by NDP

A bill that would allow Okanagan wineries to greatly expand their domestic market looks to be back on track, after a “mistake” on the part of the NDP put its future — and that of some Okanagan wineries — uncertain.

After concern that a decision on bill C-311 would be delayed until October’s sitting of Parliament, the bill’s order has been swapped, and will be decided on before Parliament breaks at the end of June.

Bill C-311, a private member’s bill brought forward by Conservative Okanagan- Coquihalla MP Dan Albas would amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to allow the sale and shipment of liquor across provincial boundaries, in quantities established by the provinces.

The bill was stalled at third reading by the NDP, and looked to be delayed until October — a prospect that had Okanagan wine-producers furious.

“It’s a gutshot to the industry,” said John Skinner, proprietor of Painted Rock Winery. “I actually feel repulsed by the fact that they stalled this, because now we just have to go back to the drawing board this year. I thought we were going to be marketing to a bunch of Canadian wine consumers, and now I’m going to be staying at home.”

Skinner, like other wine producers in the area, had planned for the bill to go through yesterday, as there was near-unanimous support for it from all parties. However, the NDP drew out the talking period, forcing the bill to be put aside.

“It was basically the NDP debating how we all agree," said Albas. "While it was all very facinating to hear from Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart that he recently celebrated his mother’s birthday in Nova Scotia, he once was a teenage babysitter and that he previously drove a truck, the Okanagan and B.C. wine industry needed support from the bill and their industry, not filibuster time wasting details of Mr. Stewart's personal life.

“These were completely uncalled for, and exactly the kind of thing that turns Canadians off politics,” he added.

Westside-Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart, who also owns a winery in B.C., also shared his thoughts on the NDP's actions.

“I think we’re looking for (economic) opportunities, and when we can create them within our own country, we shouldn’t trivialize that for political gamesmanship,” he said. “Thats the only thing I can think of. I honestly don’t know what can be gained.”

However, NDP house leader Nathan Cullen said the delay was brought about by a simple miscommunication, with one of the MPs delaying the bill simply not knowing there was a fast-track agreement in place.

“No grassy knolls, no conspiracies, it was just two MPs who missed each other in the hallway, and now we’re fixing it,” said Cullen.

To this end, Cullen said last night the NDP offered to swap out Mr. Albas’ bill with one of their own private members’ bills in order to have the amendments passed. However, a representative from Albas’s office said they will instead be taking a slot offered by Liberal MP Scott Brison on June 6,  which comes about a week earlier than the NDP’s proposed slot.

 

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