Parliamentary secretary’s statement on support for B.C. wine sector

By Contributor
February 7th, 2024

Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development, has released the following statement regarding recent actions by the Government of Alberta that affect B.C.’s wine producers:

“I am fortunate to live in and represent one of the most exciting and highly acclaimed wine regions in the country and indeed, even in the world, where our vineyards and passionate winemakers contribute not only to the economic vitality of the sector itself, but to the resilience and sustainability of so many secondary businesses across the southern Interior. The wines produced here are award-winning quality, and are enjoyed by people not only in B.C., but by visitors from across Canada and around the world.

“Recently, Alberta has taken action to stop direct-to-consumer delivery of wine from B.C. producers. This move doesn’t only affect Albertans’ freedom to choose what wine they can enjoy, it has serious repercussions on grape growers and winemakers where I live and throughout our province.

“I know that this action couldn’t come at a worse time for our growers, given recent climatic events, and it’s baffling that Alberta would decide to do this now. Our government takes this issue very seriously. Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, who is responsible for liquor in B.C., has met with his Alberta counterpart to urge them to stop what they are doing. That is just the beginning. I know he is determined to get an outcome that will benefit our wine industry.

“These past few years, our grape growers and wineries have faced unprecedented challenges due to extreme weather events and the adverse effects of climate change. Our wine industry has grappled with unprecedented crop damage caused by two extremely cold winter-freeze events, wildfires and more. The causes of extreme weather are global – but their impacts are felt acutely here at home and many B.C. grape growers and wineries are struggling with production shortages.

“These are challenging times for wineries, and our government will continue to support and stand up for grape growers, winemakers and the British Columbia wine industry.

“We’re supporting growers with the climate-related challenges they’re facing. For example, our government has taken action to provide financial assistance for income loss due to crop failure. Last year, approximately $27 million in production insurance claims were provided to growers who lost crops due to last winter’s freeze.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Food launched a very well-subscribed perennial crop-renewal program a year ago, which provides funding for removal and replanting of grapevines based on changing climate and markets. We are also supporting growers with climate-preparedness tools and resources, aiming to better protect them against the increasing threats of extreme weather. Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food, is meeting again with the industry this week to hear how we can further support them. She knows my enthusiasm for seeing a replant program expanded to address the difficult realities facing the region.

“We know there is more to do. In the face of a changing climate, our government is determined to take further steps to support wineries. We’ve listened – and we’ll continue to listen – to producers to learn what will help them most. Last year, in response to industry requests, and acknowledging the exceptional challenges faced by grape growers in recent years, our government granted exemptions to minimum wine-production levels so producers could renew their licences despite temporarily low production. We have been actively working on advancing many of the regulatory changes needed and modernizing policy around issues such as site licensing.

“I have met with dozens and dozens of grape growers and wine producers in our province, hearing their stories, and understanding the human impact of these challenges in our rural communities. These challenges are not just statistics. They represent the livelihoods of people in British Columbia who make invaluable contributions to our province. Their well-being has cascading effects for so many other families and businesses across the region.

“B.C.’s wine sector bolsters tourism, provides employment opportunities and has economic benefits for people who live in British Columbia. Our government and I will continue to work collaboratively with B.C. wineries and grape growers to ensure the long-term sustainability and success of an industry that is integral to the fabric of our region.”

Categories: GeneralPolitics