Sour grapes

Lo­cal restau­rant owner thanks Not­ley af­ter drop­ping BC wine on Feb. 1.

Fort McMurray Today - - FRONT PAGE - VIN­CENT MC­DER­MOTT To­day Staff with files from Emma Graney, Clare Clancy and Rob Shaw vm­c­der­mott@post­media.com

A Fort Mc­mur­ray restau­rant owner is thank­ing Pre­mier Rachel Not­ley af­ter the prov­ince an­nounced they are putting a cork on the flow of B.C. wines com­ing to Al­berta.

Karen Collins, the owner of Asti Trat­to­ria Ital­iana, dropped B.C. wines from her down­town restau­rant on Feb. 1, six days be­fore Not­ley’s an­nounce­ment.

Collins was re­act­ing to the B.C. gov­ern­ment’s pro­posal to re­strict in­creases in Al­berta bi­tu­men ship­ments un­til more stud­ies on spill re­sponses were com­pleted, and said she is happy with Not­ley’s an­nounce­ment.

“Orig­i­nally I was hop­ing oth­ers might fol­low. I fig­ured I’d make such a small dent alone that it wouldn’t be no­tice­able,” Collins said.

“When you get more peo­ple, it makes an im­pact and a big­ger state­ment. I never dreamed it would go this far,” she said. “I would like to thank her for stand­ing up for Al­berta.”

Collins said she holds no sour grapes to­wards B.C. winer­ies and will bring the wines back to her menu once the pipe­line dis­pute is re­solved. But for now, bot­tles from Mis­sion Hill, Gray Monk Es­tate Win­ery, Black Star Farms and Founders Creek re­main sealed in boxes.

“If the pre­mier of B.C. came to his senses, I would look at putting the wines back on the menu,” she said. “B.C. wine pro­duc­ers have huge lob­by­ists and they spend lots of money on lob­by­ing. If you put pres­sure on them, they can put pres­sure on their gov­ern­ment.”

B.C.’S wine in­dus­try quickly crit­i­cized the move. Jeff Guig­nard, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Al­liance of Bev­er­age Li­censees, told Post­media the boy­cott was “ut­terly stupid” on Tues­day.

“Pun­ish­ing Bri­tish Columbia winer­ies for some­thing that they have noth­ing to do with is frankly am­a­teur­ishly po­lit­i­cal,” he said, adding he had no com­ment on the pipe­line is­sue. “I think Al­ber­tans should be em­bar­rassed their pre­mier is ad­vo­cat­ing for it.”

Not­ley said she is pre­pared to risk be­ing hit by fines un­der the New West Part­ner­ship trade agree­ment. In the mean­time, she said Al­ber­tans can buy “some ter­rific Al­berta craft beer in­stead.”

On Wed­nes­day, B.C. Pre­mier John Hor­gan said he had no plans to hit back at Al­berta by boy­cotting prod­ucts such as beef and called Not­ley’s re­ac­tion “over the top.”

“It’s not the gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to re­spond in any way to the provo­ca­tion,” he said, adding he hopes “cooler heads on the other side of the Rock­ies will pre­vail.”

Oth­ers have said the boy­cott pun­ishes work­ers in an in­dus­try that has noth­ing to do with oil pol­i­tics or pipe­lines. Some com­ments on so­cial me­dia have ac­cused Collins of us­ing an eco­nomic dis­pute to get at­ten­tion.

She de­nies her ini­tial boy­cott was some kind of pub­lic­ity stunt, and ar­gues B.C.’S poli­cies will hurt small busi­nesses - in­clud­ing bars and restau­rants - in oil-pro­duc­ing com­mu­ni­ties like Fort Mc­mur­ray.

“My busi­ness hasn’t changed or been busier, it hasn’t been qui­eter ei­ther. My cus­tomers are still the same cus­tomers,” she said. “For me, this is not an at­tack against winer­ies. It’s an at­tack against bad eco­nomic poli­cies. It’s noth­ing per­sonal.”

CULLEN BIRD/TO­DAY STAFF

Karen Collins (sec­ond from right), owner of the Asti Trat­to­ria Ital­iana, toasts her staff at a tast­ing the night be­fore the restau­rant opens to the public on Sun­day March 20, 2016.

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