It was a mistake that resulted in yesterday’s fillibuster in the House of Commons that stalled legislation to permit free trade in wine amongst Canadian provinces says Southern Interior NDP MP Alex Atamanenko.
Private Members’ Bill C-311, presented by Okanagan-Coquihalla Conservative MP Dan Albas had the support of all parties prior to it going for third reading in the Commons yesterday, but debate on the bill was limited and time ran out before it finished.
Atamanenko admitted his party has been very supportive of the bill, which would remove federal barriers to the transport of wine from one province to another and allow Canadians to buy wine from wineries in other provinces to take home, or to have it shipped to their homes.
When it was first proposed in the House more than two years ago by Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative MP Ron Cannan, he said it would get rid of ‘archaic’ legislation that strangled B.C. wineries.
The NDP have made an offer to correct the mistake and get the bill back on the table by switching the order in which some bills reach the House in June, explained Atamanenko, so it should be passed before the summer recess at the end of the month.
In the meantime, Cannan says it was very frustrating Tuesday to see the bill not passed through the house as expected.
“This hurts no one but the industry and consumers,” he commented, adding, “I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I hope common sense will prevail.”
And, in Victoria, Kelowna-Westside Liberal MLA Ben Stewart took the opportunity to demand that provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix stand up for B.C. and stop delaying Bill C-311.
“After all my years of being a farmer, growing grapes and making wine, it’s frustrating so see what you think is a very simple change, not happen,” he commented.
Small producers such as Quail’s Gate Estate Winery once was, don’t have a high enough production to sell through the government liquor system, so selling their wines privately this way makes a lot of sense.
“If they can ship a few bottles across the country, to be enjoyed as a treasure by a consumer there, why not?” he commented.
“Unfortunately it (the bill) was delayed by partisan politics,” he added. Dix should make it clear this is a blunder that only hurts small Western farmers, he said.
Dix took exception to Stewart’s comments and said the NDP is in favour of the bill and he was confident the issue would be worked out and the bill passed, perhaps as soon as next week.
Then the key question is for each province to develop personal exemption limits to go along with the new legislation.
“I would hope that at the Western Premier’s Conference B.C. will make the case to get all provinces in agreement,” he added.
At a Free My Grapes rally in Penticton last week, Premier Christy Clark re-affirmed her government’s support for the federal bill.
Details of the bill are available on a supporters’ website called freemygrapes.ca