Dan Albas in Ottawa: Getting it done for BC wine producers

Mike Klassen with MP Dan Albas
Mike Klassen with MP Dan Albas

It's another testament to the power of Twitter. Last summer I was avoiding a little damp weather that rolled over the Okanagan on our vacation, when a Twitter mention came in from someone I was following: @DanAlbas. Don't know why I didn't put it together that Dan was the MP for BC wine country Okanagan-Coquihalla before that moment. Dan suggested we get together for lunch at one of his favourite eateries in Penticton since I was in the area.

It was raining (in July!!) so I begged off from one of our outings with Stacey and our friends Pete and Sharon, and took the 12 minute or so ride from our summer accommodation in Kaledan. I met Dan and was immediately struck by what an immensely friendly and passionate advocate for the Okanagan had been elected to Parliament.

A former Penticton city councillor, Dan had the rather large shoes to fill for Stockwell Day, who had recently left a top cabinet post and stepped down before the federal election earlier this year. Dan introduced me to his plan to put forward a private members bill to end the prohibition of wine sales between provinces in Canada.

Yes, a law that had been put in place to curb illegal alcohol sales during the US prohibition period of the late 1920s was still in place! But we've all heard that private members bills are pointless. How can a rookie in the House of Commons, let alone a backbencher get an old law changed? Perhaps it's Dan's charm, or the fact that most people are just sick of this unnecessary red tape, but it looks like it's only a matter of time before Bill C-311 gets passed.

Here's a quote from Dan's blog:

Last night in the House of Commons my Private Members Bill received all party support and was passed at second reading debate and will know move on to Committee Stage review. In this case the committee in question will be the Finance Committee as the IILA legislation is administered by the CRA. Over the next few months the Finance Committee will call expert witnesses to speak to the Bill and also potentially propose amendments or changes. After Committee Stage the Bill then comes back to the House of Commons for Report and Third Reading. On a personal note it was very rewarding to hear from my colleagues both in the Liberal and NDP Caucus including my fellow BC MP’s Alex Atamanenko, Joyce Murray, Jean Crowder, Ron Cannan and Parliamentary Secretary Cathy McLeod who all spoke very passionately about the need to eliminate trade barriers within Canada and support our Canadian Wine Industry.

Not only is the private members bill ready to be tabled, it's gained unanimous support of the government and opposition!

There's an element of luck behind this. Dan was 12th in the queue when the person in top spot discovered they needed additional work in order to table their bill. Dan was asked if he wanted to trade places. He tells the story here.

Good luck, Dan. We're all behind you on this one. It will be great for BC wineries to be able to sell their product legally outside the province through online sales, or for customers here to be able to get some of the Niagara region's best wine.

– post by Mike Klassen –