Time to reconsider support of Cannings re-election
I have always considered our MP, Dick Cannings, to be an effective nonpartisan representative of our region. But his refusal to support the efforts of his fellow Okanagan MP, Dan Ashton, to free interprovincial wine trade is causing me to reconsider. The current minority government situation provides a unique opportunity for Cannings and Albas to work together on a non-partisan basis to pass legislation which would open up a truly Canadian common market for BC wines.
BC’s 375 wineries are driving a boom in rural agra-tourism here in the Okanagan and elsewhere in the province. Our local wines are premium products, highly respected within the province and internationally, but inter-provincial trade restrictions block their access to most of the rest of Canada. These trade barriers are an ongoing international embarrassment to Canada. A recent, heavily read article in the New York Times commented negatively on the balkanization of the Canadian market, Canadian chauvinism and the major gulfs between Western and Eastern Canada. Eliminating these trade barriers is critical to the growth and prosperity of BC wineries.
Dan Albas’ private members bill would require Canada Post to deliver wine from small and medium size producers to customers across the country. To ensure the constitutionality of the legislation, the Albas proposal provides for provincial opt outs. Because of the opt out provisions, Cannings criticizes the proposal as not accomplishing much other than the embarrassment of provincial governments and refuses to support it on that basis.
With respect, Cannings entirely misses the point. Because the issue of interprovincial wine trade is a matter of dual federal-provincial jurisdiction, of necessity, any federal efforts to establish free trade must be tempered with such an opt out provision. The fact that provincial politicians would have to embarrass themselves by opting out is exactly the point.
Both Premier Ford in Ontario and Premier Kenny in Alberta, the two key potential markets for BC wines, are free trade advocates at heart; but both are currently sitting on the fence and bowing to parochial interests in blocking direct shipment of BC wine into their provinces. Doug Ford, for example, has enacted regulations to remove the trade restrictions but has repeatedly delayed implementation under pressure from the LCBO monopoly. If the Albas legislation is enacted, there is a strong likelihood that both of these politicians will yield to opening their borders to direct shipment of BC wines rather than suffer the embarrassment of having to opt out of the Albas solution,
Dick Cannings is key to making this happen. He is an effective advocate and a key member of the NDP caucus. He is a close confident of party leader, Jagmeet Singh, who he regularly invites to visit our riding. With Cannings support of the Albas proposal, and given the current situation of a minority government, the elusive goal of free interprovincial wine trade can finally be achieved.
Whether Cannings takes up the challenge to work together with Albas collaboratively to achieve this result will reveal whether he is just another partisan politician or an effective advocate and parliamentarian on behalf of is constituents in the Okanagan Valley.
Al Hudec is a legal advisor to the BC wine industry, providing regulatory advice
Editor’s comment – the person for the Tory party in this riding has lost twice? Right. I admit I have always voted for Dick. At least he is honest.
BTW Al – last comment I saw from Dick – full cooperation given to Mr. Albas – his comment he was not sure any change in legislation would be effective.