B.C. plans trade challenge of Alberta’s wine ban

The Alberta government’s ban on imports of wine from British Columbia is poised to be the first case challenged under the new interprovincial Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).

The British Columbia government announced Monday it will formally challenge the Alberta ban through the CFTA dispute settlement process.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley on Feb. 6 ordered the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) to put an “immediate halt” on imports of B.C. wines.

The wine ban followed a B.C. proposal announced Jan. 30 to restrict increased transport of crude oil in the form of diluted bitumen, while the B.C. government studies the potential effects of spills.

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B.C.’s proposed limits on crude oil traffic stand to delay Kinder Morgan Canada’s planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., a project approved by the federal government in 2016.

“We’re standing by our wine producers and the communities that rely on this important industry by launching a formal trade dispute, and we are confident we will be successful,” Bruce Ralston, B.C.’s minister of jobs, trade and technology, said in a release Monday.

A representative from the Internal Trade Secretariat, which oversees administration of the CFTA, wasn’t immediately available for comment via email Tuesday.

According to the AGLC, Alberta’s ban affects imports of about 1,460 wine products from 117 B.C. wineries. B.C. has over 350 licensed wineries and 929 vineyards.

Alberta’s actions, Ralston said Monday, “are inconsistent with Alberta’s obligations under the CFTA, and we will protect our reputation and the interests of British Columbians.”

Miles Prodan, CEO of the B.C. Wine Institute, said in a statement Monday the organization is “hopeful for a favourable result” from the challenge.

“However, given the lengthy process that a challenge through the (CFTA) dispute settlement process will take, we continue to ask the (AGLC) to lift the unfair ban and allow the free trade of B.C. wines into Alberta.”

The CFTA took effect July 1 last year, updating the previous interprovincial Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT). The new pact includes a “regulatory reconciliation process,” meant to deal with regulatory differences that “act as a barrier to trade.”

However, the new agreement is also meant to preserve governments’ ability to “adopt and apply their own laws and regulations for economic activity in the public interest in order to achieve public policy objectives.”

The new pact also commits its parties to “establish a working group that assesses options for further liberalizing trade in alcohol.” –– AGCanada.com Network

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