Okanagan municipal governments are being urged to send letters of protest over the ongoing trade war between B.C. and Alberta. File photo

Penticton joins trade war protest

Opposition to wine boycott is spreading through Okanagan communities

The City of Penticton is joining the protest over Alberta’s ban on B.C. wines, at least in a small way.

Council voted unanimously last night to join a campaign circulating among Okanagan communities to send letters to both sides in the dispute, urging a quick solution.

Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit spoke to the city council, urging the letter not pick a side or make a statement about pipelines, but more about raising awareness that as a centre of the wine industry, the region is “collateral damage to what is going on between the two provinces.”

“It’s not just wine, but also the tourism, which is also sort of that foot in the door to showcase us as a place for people to move here or invest,” said Jakubeit. “It is more about raising awareness that we are being impacted negatively and to try to find some sort of fast resolution.“

Jakubeit explained that Penticton city council doesn’t usually comment on what other levels of government do, but the situation with the wine boycott is “somewhat different.”

“That’s why it’s here and I will throw that (question) out to the group if we want to do something or not poke our nose in,” said Jakubeit.

Related:Government pours it on, declares April B.C. Wine Month

Coun. Tarik Sayeed contrasted Jakubeit’s call to be neutral with the tone in a letter the Town of Oliver is sending.

“You were saying we are going to be neutral, but on page two it is saying we don’t want an interprovincial trade war. So which position are we taking?”

Jakubeit said the Oliver letter was included in the agenda package for reference.

Again I don’t think we want to make any statements other than saying hey, our area is being impacted and we want to raise awareness of that,” said Jakubeit. “It’s been a concern that our residents and business community have been voicing to us.”

Coun. Judy Sentes agreed that it is difficult to take sides, and both B.C. Premier John Horgan and his Albertan counterpart, Premier Rachel Notley, need to not cause hardship for the citizens of either province.

“There are people on both sides of the fence, but a lot of people are affected. That is what we have to keep in mind, not to hardship our people,” said Sentes.

Related: Editorial: Playing by the rules

Konanz said the letter needs to make it clear that this kind of dispute shouldn’t be happening between provinces.

“We have a difficult enough time worrying about NAFTA and changes in border rules with other countries, but when we are talking about us as Canadians, we need to not war with each other,” said Konanz.

Not surprisingly, Dan Ashton, the Liberal MLA for Penticton is taking aim at the actions of Premier Horgan and the B.C. NDP, but he is also hoping the dispute is settled, earlier than later.

Related: BC Wine Institute to take legal action against Alberta

“Hopefully, cooler heads are going to prevail and there is going to be some discussion because there is an awful lot at risk,” said Ashton, saying the damage done by the dispute could spiral into other sectors of the economy.

“It’s additional spinoffs, like tourism, which is the backbone of B.C. and our primary source of tourists is Alberta. And it’s already started, cancellations have already started,” said Ashton, who spoke in question period in the B.C. Legislature Monday, stating that $70 million in wine sales is being lost.

“As the wine war continues, it seems the only people coming out ahead are the lawyers,” Ashton said in his speech, noting that the province launched more court action this week, challenge the Alberta ban under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement.

Related: Alberta shrugs off B.C. legal challenge on wine ban

“Winemakers like Dirty Laundry Vineyards in Summerland are at great risk, not only from the boycott, but 45 percent of their visitors are coming from Alberta,” Ashton said. “The $2 billion wine industry is not a pawn to be used between two bickering provincial NDP governments.”

From the Alberta side: Bashaw residents not in favour of cutting B.C. wine from their list

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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