October 05, 2018

By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the news about the successful negotiation of a trilateral trade agreement with Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Members need to know that this agreement contains important implications for wine in grocery sales in BC.

In a pair of side letters to the Agreement, Canada and the U.S. agreed that wine sales on B.C. supermarket shelves could not be limited to just BC wines. Although it is too soon to say how exactly this will play out, there are obvious potential implications for both the 12 Bill-22 licenses auctioned off by the previous Liberal government as well as the 21 existing VQA wine licences owned by the BC Wine Institute.

Earlier this week, I met with Attorney General David Eby and several of his senior staff to discuss our concerns on this matter. I was immensely gratified to hear that government appreciates our concerns and has no intentions of either releasing additional grocery licenses or expanding grocery product selection beyond wine.

The side letters set the date for resolving this issue as Nov. 1, 2019. We will continue to monitor this issue in the days ahead and keep you apprised of any developments.

Cannabis and travel to the US

Many members have been in touch to express their serious concerns about how cannabis legalization could impact traveling to the Unites States. Recent news reports have painted a grim view of how the U.S. borders guards will be treating anyone who admits to working in this emerging legal industry.

I wanted you to know that I have raised these issues directly with Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and his Deputy Ministers. While national border issues remain the responsibility of the federal government, I appreciate that the Solicitor General and his staff share our concerns and are aware of how this is impacting potential business investment.

Minister Farnworth assured me that he has personally engaged with the federal government on this matter and that both he and other provinces are actively pushing the government of Canada to seek a workable solution with their U.S. counterparts.

It is important that government understands the full scope of this problem. If potential border issues are impacting your decision to invest in the cannabis industry, please contact me at jeff@ablebc.ca with your story.

Labour issues

While in Victoria earlier this week I also met with senior officials in the Premier’s office to discuss our industry’s ongoing labour and employment concerns. As many of you know from first-hand experience, BC is currently in the midst of a significant labour shortage. Government’s own labour market data suggests this shortage will be getting even worse in the coming years, which will impact your ability to grow and sustain your current businesses.

We also wanted to ensure the Premier’s office understood how several recent labour policy changes—such minimum wage increases, the new Employer Health Tax, pending changes to the Employment Standards Act, etc.—are adding up to massive cost to BC’s small businesses. We also impressed upon government the need to phase in these changes over a longer time-frame so that businesses have time to adapt to any cost increases.

Now that the Legislature is back in session, we will be following the progress of several bills—such as amendments to the Labour Code—that could lead to cost increases for your businesses. I will report back with more details as they become available.

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