West Kelowna  

Stewart 'stuck in the middle'

Ben Stewart finds himself smack dab in the middle of a heated battle for the hearts and minds of voters in the Kelowna West byelection coming up on Valentine's Day. He's also caught up in the wine trade war between B.C. and Alberta.

Stewart's family owns Quails' Gate Winery, which makes him uniquely qualified to provide insight and context in the dispute.

"I think about some of the wine colleagues that I have, some of the smaller wineries that don't have the access to the BCLD like we have. Markets like Alberta are a big part of their strategy. If I were starting over again, I would be struggling with the cash flow, which is a huge deal when you're starting out, and now 25 per cent of their market has been shut off for them."

"I really empathize with the Okanagan wineries that have tried to build a market and relationship with consumers that are not just here in B.C. The premier's remarks about building a market in Asia is all well and good, but that could take years to cultivate."

Stewart described the situation as "frightening" when you consider how much of the Okanagan's tourist industry (not just wine) is tied to Alberta.

"We're supposed to be open about trade. Why would we have an internal squabble in the family when we should be able to sort this out and move forward together?"

Stewart is the BC Liberal candidate in the riding previously held by former premier Christy Clark.

Meanwhile, Green candidate Robert Stupka calls Noteley's move "outrageous."

“It is outrageous and petty that Rachel Notley is using B.C. wine producers as pawns in her attempt to start a trade war,” he said.

“The issue at hand is with an environmental assessment process that the federal government itself acknowledged is flawed and in need of a complete overhaul."

The NDP's Shelley Cook backed Premier John Horgan’s stance against Alberta's economic pressure.

“I hope the Alberta government makes the choice to pursue a resolution to this disagreement in the court system, rather than on wine store shelves," she said.

“There are thirteen wineries in Kelowna West, and hundreds more in the Okanagan Valley and across British Columbia. Our grape growers and wine producers depend on a government that supports their industry, helps attract new tourism dollars, and protects the land, water, and air that makes their world-class product so remarkable."

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