MP: Looming trade issue with Australia could adversely impact Canadian wineries

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Tracy Gray urging federal government act

Lately, I have been spending a large amount of my time on an issue that will directly affect our local wineries, and most wineries across Canada.

In 2018, following the government’s introduction of an excise escalator tax (basically meaning an automatic increase every year on the alcohol excise tax) for import beer, wine and spirits, Australia requested a review at the World Trade Organization for Canada’s exemption for 100 per cent Canadian wines.

The WTO draft report is anticipated in April, with the final legally binding report this summer.

If the review agrees with Australia, this could have a catastrophic effect on some 400 Canadian wineries, including 32 wineries here in Kelowna-Lake Country. It would force them to bear the burden of tens of millions of dollars in new taxes each year as an industry – a new cost that they have not paid before, putting this important industry at risk.

Local winery owners I’ve spoken to, as well as representatives from the British Columbia Wine Institute, and the Canadian Wine Growers Association all say that if we lose the trade dispute it will set the wine industry back 15 years.

On Jan. 16, official Opposition MPs who have wineries in our communities across the country jointly signed a letter to the federal small business, export promotion, and international trade minister, urging the government to immediately engage with Australia to settle this dispute prior to the WTO ruling.

We received a response from the minister on Jan. 31 where the minister stated, “Australia’s position on the excise duty exemption has been unwavering and clear…”.

Basically, the response was that there isn’t much the government of Canada can do. It is not engaging with Australia as far as we know to negotiate any resolution, or coming up with a plan on how to address this if Canada loses the trade challenge.

I have also spoken several times in the House of Commons about this issue asking government to come up with a plan, as have many of my colleagues.

We have to remember that wineries are farms and most are small businesses employing thousands of Canadians across the country.

Our cost of production here is considerably higher, and farm land prices are high compared to other parts of the world, including Australia. To put things into perspective, our entire industry here in B.C. grows less acreage of grapes than some of the individual large wineries themselves in Australia.

We live in a special place here that will be affected proportionally higher than in most parts of the country, as everyone in Kelowna-Lake Country lives just 15 minutes from a winery.

Connect with me if you have any thoughts on this topic.

If you need assistance with federal services, would like me to participate in a community activity, or have any issues that you would like to discuss, please be sure to reach out.

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country. Contact her at 250-470-5075 or

Federal Politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

KGH Foundation establishes COVID-19 response fund to support frontline workers

Doctors, nurses and staff have been challenged to pivot operations to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic

General exposure to public low after inmate tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The Okanagan Correctional Centre inmate is receiving appropriate care

Children of frontline workers to return to Central Okanagan schools

Approximately 500 K-6 students will return as 25 schools open doors on Monday

Four vehicle crash stalls traffic in Glenmore

The four-vehicle fender bender took place about 4:15 p.m.

COVID-19: Central Okanagan fire departments only responding to serious medical calls

The new directive from Dr. Bonnie Henry does not change the public safety response of firefighters

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

Food support continues for Okanagan students despite school closures

Kids aren’t going hungry thanks to Kal Rotary and Starfish Backpack program

Emergency services respond to numerous incidents on Highway 1

Today there were multiple semi truck crashes on Highway 1 and a collision by the hospital

Large item collection events cancelled in Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen

Concerns about spread of COVID-19 led to decision to cancel collection events

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Organizers hoping to hold Summerland Fall Fair

COVID-19 pandemic may result in changes to agricultural celebration

Most Read