Legislation uncorks opportunity

MP says changes to law will allow wineries to expand and help create jobs

I would like to take a moment to respond to the comments made by Osoyoos resident Mischa Popoff. As many area residents are well aware, each year the Okanagan hosts literally thousands of visitors from all across Canada. In particular, vacationers from our neighbouring province of Alberta have become an increasingly common sight.

One of the Okanagan’s more popular tourism activities is visiting our outstanding Okanagan wineries. It is a customary theme when visiting a local winery to desire purchasing wine to take back into your home province. Unfortunately, the outdated prohibition-era Federal Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act is a law that has made it illegal for a B.C. winery to sell directly to a visitor from Alberta or any other part of Canada, if the intent was to transport the wine back home into another province.

What has been more economically frustrating is that as a B.C. winery, you can sell directly to a customer from Asia or Texas but not Alberta or Ontario. There are over 200 B.C. wineries and in excess of 3,000 jobs being supported by this industry, and no ability to directly access our own Canadian marketplace. With my private member’s Bill C-311 receiving royal assent, it will now be legal for B.C. wineries to sell to visitors from Alberta and other Canadian provinces.

While Mr. Popoff may see no economic benefits to having access to larger markets courtesy of inter-provincial trade, without exception, every winemaker I have spoken with is excited by these new opportunities and many have plans for expansion that do indeed include hiring more staff. Mr. Popoff should also realize that there are significant economic spinoffs for our local trades and construction industries that benefit from the tens of millions that have been invested to construct these world-class winery operations.

The final point raised by Popoff was his suggestion that only a “tree hugger” or “fool” would hope that the B.C. government, along with other provincial governments, would support the intent of my bill in permitting e-commerce and the economically important ability to also ship wine across provincial borders. I do not share Mr. Popoff’s defeatist attitude, and instead have worked proactively with the B.C. government and am proud of the fact that B.C. has now come out with a revised policy that supports e-commerce and the shipping of wine. I am also excited to see Manitoba and Alberta have also embraced e-commerce and other provinces are, contrary to Mr. Popoff’s false claims, not far behind.

While Popoff is free to continue to condemn and criticize the actions of others, I would like to instead recognize the hard work of the many small Okanagan winery owners who have invested millions of dollars in producing world-class wines that have helped put the Okanagan on the map and created a vibrant and prosperous new industry in the process.

Dan Albas, MP