John Horgan won’t retaliate in pipeline feud with Alberta

B.C. premier calls his counterpart’s wine ban a ‘distraction’ and hopes conflict will cool

Premier John Horgan says he will not retaliate against Alberta’s ban on B.C. wine as a result of his government’s actions to halt progress on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

But he added the NDP government will not back down from its fight to nix the $7.4-billion project that would triple the pipeline’s capacity to transport crude from Alberta to the B.C. coast, nor will it end its support for the B.C. wine industry in what has become a trade war between the two provinces.

“I certainly hope we’ve seen the end of the back and forth,” Horgan told a news conference in Victoria on Wednesday. “I don’t believe it’s in anyone’s interest to have duelling premiers.”

The comments come a day after Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced her province would stop importing B.C. wines, adding that such a ban could cost that sector up to $17 million.

Horgan said Notley’s tactics won’t get in the way of his government’s Throne Speech next week.

“I want to resolve this, but I’m not going to be distracted.”

Horgan said Ian Anderson, the president of Kinder Morgan Canada, has met with government officials since the NDP announced its proposal to limit bitumen transports off the B.C. coast until it can determine that shippers are prepared and able to properly clean up a spill.

In a statement to Black Press Media, Kinder Morgan called the recent political duel “unfortunate.”

“It is Trans Mountain’s intention to put people to work and to create jobs and opportunities through our expansion project, so it is unfortunate that any of this has happened, even tangentially,” the statement said. “We have operations, employees and community relationships spanning both provinces.”

Is a boycott effective?

From oil to electricity to wine – and speculation that beer and beef could be next – consumers and retailers are keeping a close eye on whether another province bans a product.

But are Alberta’s protectionist methods useful?

“What we’re doing is reducing the ability for consumers to enjoy a product that they were previously enjoying,” said economist Ross Hickey, a professor at UBC Okanagan.

“As far as I know, there isn’t an Alberta wine industry that can benefit from higher prices – this is purely political.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s B.C. wine ban condemned by Kelowna West byelection candidates

Hickey said the “tit-for-tat” strategy playing out is taking away from what was originally a progressive trade agreement between provinces.

Canada doesn’t have a free provincial trade agreement, he said, so it’s rare for trade wars to happen between them. In 2009, Alberta and B.C. agreed to an inter-provincial agreement allowing the trade of wine.

Historically, Hickey said trade wars typically end when one side begins to lose too much.

“When marijuana is legalized in Canada, and it’s possible for people of Alberta to buy British Columbia-produced marijuana, I’m pretty sure the calls for boycotts of each others’ goods and services from the other provinces are going to be gone.”


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