Concern borders on amusement at B.C.Alberta boundary
As the battle of wills between the B.C. and Alberta governments over pipelines and rosés heats up, towns near the B.C-Alberta border are keeping a wary, if amused, eye on the escalating spat.
Gerry Taft, mayor of Invermere, said most of the reaction he’s heard from residents about the ongoing tit-for-tat between B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley are tongue-in-cheek, with hashtags like #marchonfernie and #bcresistance popping up on his Twitter feed and joking talk about Alberta’s bid to reclaim territory in southeastern B.C. by “making Alberta rectangle again.”
“People are exaggerating what politicians have said and are running with it,” said Taft.
“My gut feeling is that most regular people are not taking it seriously.”
Many B.C. border towns, including Invermere, Radium Hot Springs, and Golden, have strong commercial or tourism ties with Alberta.
Geographically closer to Calgary than Vancouver, the region operates on a different time zone from the rest of B.C. — Mountain time is referred to as “Alberta time.”
Many Albertans have vacation homes in Invermere, said Taft, and are considered part-time residents who volunteer and contribute to the community, while many Invermere residents drive to Banff or Calgary, three hours away, to shop, vacation or fly out of the airport.
With Alberta’s Family Day weekend — traditionally a busy weekend for the Kootenays and Columbia Valley — coming up, the business community is hoping for a quick resolution to the dispute between the two NDP governments.
“We are concerned about this,” said Susan Clovechok, executive director of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Alberta is our largest market” in terms of tourism, and the region’s population explodes from 9,500 residents to 40,000 during the busy tourist season.
At least one Kootenay tourism operator has received a cancellation from Alberta clients who said they’ll go to Montana instead.
A hockey team from Alberta that was scheduled to come to B.C. for a tournament has also pulled out.
Clovechok doesn’t want to see a boycott gain momentum as any cancellations, especially during the long weekend, can negatively affect small businesses’ bottom line.
“We are not a community along the pipeline,” she said. “We have no direct influence, but our communities and our families could end up paying the price.”
Golden Mayor Ron Oszust said he was “quite shocked” at Notley’s move to ban B.C. wine: “It’s unfortunate that it escalated.”
But he’s confident the political war won’t translate into a direct hit to his small community, a gateway to the Rockies towns of Banff and Jasper.
“We’re in the middle of six national parks. We have lots of people coming for downhill skiing, heliskiing, snowmobiling, I don’t see that much of an impact here.”
On the other side of the border, Blair Painter, mayor of Crowsnest Pass, said he’s heard people agree with the wine boycott, and possibly more.
“People are saying that’s something I can support. I’m not going to buy B.C. wine if they don’t want to take our product,” he said.
If a trade war erupts between Alberta and B.C., Painter thinks B.C. has more to lose. The impact to his community will be minimal, said Painter. Crowsnest Pass, which is made up of five communities, does not see a lot of tourists from B.C.
But there’s plenty of Albertans who head west for recreational activities. “I heard people say they won’t be doing that anymore, and that they’ll spend the money in Alberta,” he said. “But talk is talk. We’ll see what happens.
“I’m really disappointed it would come down to where we are today,” he added.
David Hull, executive director of the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce, said Horgan and Notley should stop their political posturing and called on the federal government to resolve the issue.
While he doesn’t see the pipeline war developing into a major economic battle between the two provinces, Hull said it paints Canada as a nation which “can’t even get our poop in a group.”
“Disputes like this don’t move the economy forward and it doesn’t bode well on the local, provincial and international stage,” said Hull. “There’s just going to be losers out of this.”