July 21st, 2018

Wine boycott sends signal to B.C.

By Schnarr, J.W. on February 11, 2018.

Professor says action is political theatre

J.W. Schnarr

Lethbridge Herald


While a boycott on B.C. wine is not likely to drastically affect the Lethbridge economy in any meaningful way, some worry that a back-and-forth between B.C. and Alberta could escalate.

Two weeks ago, the B.C. government announced it was looking at restricting diluted bitumen shipments from Alberta until more environmental testing could be done. In response, the Alberta government suspended talks to purchase electricity from B.C., and then announced a boycott on B.C. wine.

Trevor Harrison, a U of L professor of sociology, Research Affiliate with the Prentice Institute, and director of the Parkland Institute, provided an email statement saying the wine boycott was a measured response to the issue.

“I view the boycott as an opening shot across the bow,” he said.

“It sends a signal, implicitly suggesting that other boycotts/acts may follow. But it is measured enough so that all out war isn’t declared, which would serve no one’s interest.”

U of L political science professor Geoffrey Hale said he understood the wine boycott in spite of some seeing it as “schoolyard posturing.” He said these types of decisions are made in part due to frustration citizens may have over how slow government and law tend to operate.

“When such a large portion of citizens feel that governments know or don’t care about how they are doing, it’s entirely understandable,” he said.

However, he called the action “political theatre,” due to his belief these measures have been directed as much at the Alberta people as the B.C. government.

“The numbers that are being kicked around on the wine boycott are in the $70 million range,” he said. “The potential impact on energy revenue for the Kinder Morgan situation are well north of $1billion.”

Economic Development Lethbridge CEO Trevor Lewington said there would likely be little impact on Lethbridge aside from some retail or service disruptions, but he said things could become more serious if B.C. were to decide to ban a major Alberta product in response.

These actions also fly in the face of what has been an appetite for provinces to reduce barriers to interprovincial trade.

“There’s been a number of successive agreements – particularly the western provinces – have gotten together over the years. It’s to try to eliminate some of the competition.”

Lewington said he was worried about escalation.

“It becomes a tit-for-tat,” he said.

“(But) we already have enough competition from the likes of the U.S., Asia, and from Europe. The last thing we need to be doing is competing with ourselves.”

On Friday, the province announced the creation of a “Market Access Task Force” to provide advice for encouraging and promoting market access for oil and gas by pipeline to tidewater. It will also look at economic and trade responses to the B.C. government’s proposed restrictions “Éand other attempts to further frustrate progress on this important project.”

“It is probably the single biggest challenge in terms of interprovincial trade in recent memory,” said Hale. “Hopefully it can get worked out before too much longer so the province’s biggest industry is not being draped over a pipeline.”

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