A toast to new federal program to support wine industry

Raise a glass to the feds

The past two years have been tough on the Okanagan wine industry but the new Wine Sector Support Program from the federal government provides much-needed and timely relief.

Across our region in recent years, wine growers have experienced dramatic declines in revenue, suspended production, laid-off employees, seen hospitality and tourism suffer, handled inflation and supply chain problems, managed the vagaries of weather, and of course, faced increased competition from internationally subsidized wines.

These challenges have impacted the livelihoods of farmers, distributors, truck drivers, warehouse workers and countless others connected to the wine value chain in our area and across Ontario.

With the future of the wine industry at stake, the federal support program will ensure our industry will not just survive but thrive in the years ahead. That’s good news for the Okanagan Valley and for Canadian consumers who enjoy our products.

The Wine Sector Support Program provides $166 million over two years in direct, non-repayable support funding from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. All wine producers, whether they use grapes, fruit, rice, dandelions or sap are eligible to apply and I encourage all my colleagues to submit your applications before the Aug. 12 deadline.

I also encourage the public in joining me in thanking the MPs and senior federal officials who worked so hard to bring this program to life. Canadian wineries compete with the world, and our vineyards stretch from the mountains of B.C. to the farmlands of Ontario and Quebec, and the coasts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI.

Local representatives from all political parties are big boosters of our work, and without their support, and the recognition of our value by the federal government, this program would not have come to fruition.

In this county, and across British Columbia, we are lucky to have many MPs in our corner.

Specifically, I want to raise a glass to our local Okanagan MPs Tracy Gray, Richard Cannings, Dan Albas, and Mel Arnold, as well as federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Support for Canadian wine is a non-partisan issue that grows our local and national economy, and we can all agree it’s worthy of the recently announced support.

Canadian wine is a homegrown success story. From grapes to glass, Canadian wine is rooted in Canadian soil, but is also the anchor for the Okanagan’s emerging culinary tourism experiences, cultivating terroir and taste-of-place destinations, attracting investments and driving rural development.

The Wine Sector Support Program comes at a time when Canadians are facing high inflation and rising costs, but this program means we can continue to make high-quality products, without needing to add more costs and pass them onto our consumers.

For this we applaud the federal government for delivering on its commitment to support the long-term success of the Canadian wine and grape industry.

A healthy and vibrant wine value chain will play an important role in ensuring Canada’s post-pandemic recovery. Thanks to the leadership of the federal government, Canada’s wine industry is ready to grow back stronger.

All of that means wine lovers, Canadian small businesses and everyone in Canada have a great reason this summer to toast the future success of our industry under this new support program.

Tony Stewart is the chair of the Canadian Vintners Association and CEO of Quails’ Gate Estate Winery.

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