New B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson is laying the blame for the current trade dispute with Alberta that has stopped the flow of B.C. wine into that province directly at the feet of Premier John Horgan.
Wilkinson was in Kelowna Friday where he accused Horgan of picking a fight with Alberta over the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, a fight that has prompted Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to “pick a fight” with the B.C. wine industry.
“Premier John Horgan has decided to pick a fight with Alberta that is probably going to lead to a constitutional challenge and in which British Columbia will probably lose in the courts,” said Wilkinson, a trained lawyer and doctor.
“In response, the Alberta government, run by an NDP premier, has picked a fight with the B.C. wine industry…This puts the whole industry at risk.”
In response to Horgan saying he planned to consult more about the pipeline project through B.C. and look at limiting the amount of bitumen the pipeline can carry from the Oil Sands in Northern Alberta to Vancouver for shipment overseas, Notley this week announced her liquor distribution branch would stop importing B.C. wine.
Wilkinson urged Horgan to “swallow his pride,” fly to Edmonton and settle the dispute with Notley as quickly as possible.
Approval of the pipeline project rests with the federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said it will proceed and is in the national interest. The former B.C. Liberal government, under then-premier Christy Clark, signed off on approval of the pipeline after being assured B.C. would have “world-class” spill response measures put in place for both land and water oil spills.
In opposition, and during last May’s election campaign, Horgan opposed the pipeline project.
As for Notley’s decision to target B.C. wine—a move made as the Kelowna West byelection is about to be held in a riding in the heart of the province’s wine country—Wilkinson sees it as a “fundamental attack” on the B.C. wine industry.
“The wine industry is now under siege, wine workers are facing a challenge that is totally unnecessary, that has been created by a squabble between two NDP governments,” he said during media event at Kelowna’s Sandhill Winery Friday morning.
“The people who will pay the price are the people in the B.C. wine industry.”
Last year, Albertans bought 7.2 million bottles of B.C. wine in their province, spending around $70 million, according to Notley. The total value of the B.C. wine industry is estimated at $2.8 billion and it employs 15,000 people.
“This a completely unnecessary schoolyard squabble between the Alberta government and the B.C. government and picked by John Horgan and the (B.C.) NDP,” said Wilkinson. “What we need is sober second-thought.”
“My suggestion is it’s high time John Horgan swallowed his pride, showed some leadership and gets on a plane to Edmonton and solves this problem.”
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