This week will be an important one for me on Parliament Hill.
Assuming the current parliamentary schedule remains intact, on Tuesday evening my private members will come before the House of Commons for the first hour of debate at third reading. It is possible that should the bill continue to receive strong all party support in the House, that it may well receive a vote during first hour debate.
If a vote does occur and the Bill is passed, it will then move on the Senate and history will have been made as Okanagan wineries would soon be able to sell wine directly to Canadians in other Provinces. Currently an Okanagan winery can legally sell wine directly to a customer in Japan but it is illegal to sell directly to customer who lives in Calgary.
This is an out of date prohibition era law that we all agree needs to change. However if there is not a consensuses in the House to have a vote at the first hour of debate then it would fall to the second hour of debate. That in itself may not sound like a major inconvenience, however the way that our Parliamentary systems functions means that second hour debate would not occur again until likely late October. This would obviously significantly and adversely impact the timing of the Bill and is one of the reasons why I am working hard to try and ensure passage hopefully during the first hour of debate this week.
What is important about this Bill passing quickly is that many of the wineries I have met with have expansion plans. In some cases possibly only minor, and in some cases fairly major.
Expanding a vineyard, constructing new outbuildings or a new tasting room all benefit our local construction trades. New stainless tanks, tractors, printing and marketing services also benefit from our expanding wine industry. Currently there are in excess of 3,300 jobs being supported either directly or indirectly by the BC wine industry and locally we have also witnessed the benefits of wine tourism.
Last week I was in Toronto and met with several different groups currently planning fall wine tours in large part as they are hoping to purchase BC wine to take back into Ontario legally for the first time in history. I have also had a chance to meet with Federal Express Canada who is very encouraged about the potential for increased shipping opportunities and as a result is in full support of the Bill.
Ultimately the ability to legally transport BC wine back to other parts of Canada serves as an open invitation to come back and visit our beautiful region of the province. It is also fairly exciting to hear about a new winery opening in Lillooet and grapes being grown in Merritt. Wine is fast becoming an economic driver in every region within Okanagan-Coquihalla and opening up the Canadian marketplace through my private members Bill C-311 is long overdue. Hopefully I will have some good news on this subject later in the week.
One other activity that I am currently working on is my annual accountability report that I intend to provide to the taxpayer’s of Okanagan-Coquihalla in the near future. This report will include information such as my House attendance record, sponsored travel disclosure and the individual member expenditure report as issued by the Board of Internal Economy. I believe that taxpayer’s deserve to know this type of information and I would like to have the reports made available to you as soon as they are released by the Board of Internal Economy. I also welcome your views and input on this or any other area of concern.