Based on a Transcript
Thank you Ben [Stewart, co-owner of Quails’ Gate Winery], ladies and gentlemen. It is great to see you here today and so good to have some of my colleagues here, [including] Ron Cannan [MP Kelowna-Lake Country], who is the second hardest working MP in all of Canada. It’s great to have Ron and his wife here today. Rick [Thorpe, MLA for Okanagan-Westside] and I work together on so many different things and, in terms of local and provincial issues, he has always been the first person at the door or on the phone when there are areas that are important to our shared constituents here. We have had a great working relationship.
As we know, Rick is looking at a change of profession. We are also excited to mention—I don’t think he minds me saying—that Ben is looking to follow in Rick’s footsteps, should that be the wishes of the constituents. Those who know Ben and the Stewart family can have a high degree of confidence in a candidate like Ben. I hope you don’t mind me mentioning that, Ben.
Ben said a couple of things that were very important, which I want to touch on before we get to the actual announcement. The Stewart family is typical of those who have worked hard right from the beginning, who have pioneered, in fact, to see the industry what it is today . One of Ben’s and the Stewart family’s goals was to have a world-class product—at that time they wanted to produce a regionally known Pinot Noir—which, of course, has gone on to become a product that is recognized and awarded around the world.
Ben said something very important here about the land. We are now in a time of fiscal downturn. As a federal government, we have said we will do what we can with a number of industries, without breaking any trade agreements or getting into subsidies or things like that, where you can wind up getting into trouble.
We have said that [for] industries that need a partnership of sorts, which are going through difficulty, especially in this time of worldwide economic downturn, the federal government will be there in ways that we can. You have heard announcements related to the auto industry, you have certainly heard announcements related to the forestry industry. Agriculture is huge for Canada, and we want to be there in ways that are legitimate for a variety of sectors within the agriculture industry.
The announcement today has to do with a partnership between the departments of Foreign Affairs [and International Trade] and Agriculture and Agri-Food, and, of course, the industry itself. In our area, with some 158 wineries now in B.C., people have had to risk their resources, work hard to pursue their dream—the dream of an industry that would be sustainable and marketable not just locally and provincially, but in fact, around the world.
In a time where worldwide competition on a variety of agriculture products has meant that some people decide to get out of farming and to get out of the agriculture business, land then becomes more difficult to preserve and conserve for agricultural purposes. That’s where people—certainly in our area—are making a decision to begin growing grapes.
Because the industry has done so well and has succeeded, more and more people have gotten into it. [As for this] land that we see behind us—had the Stewarts not been successful and had the industry not been successful—others may not have been able to make the case for this land. Housing developments may have been possible—and of course we welcome housing developments—but it’s fabulous to see the amount of land that’s being preserved not as some kind of historic site, but that is actually being worked and producing value, producing jobs and, of course, producing a very valuable product. That’s what this industry has been all about.
When a Canadian product or service is sold abroad, with that goes messages about Canada. When our agricultural products—be it grapes, or another type of product—are sold around the world, those products advertise the fact that we have clean air in our country, we have clean water, we have high technology. In all of these different areas, whether it’s growing grapes, making wine, or producing wheat, whatever it is, the high-tech component that goes with it is also something that we market. Canada becomes known for its many great attributes because of the products that are sold from ambitious, entrepreneurial, hard-working people in the agriculture business.
Ben, you probably didn’t realize that you were an ambassador, but in fact you and your family are ambassadors. Whether we’re talking about Mission Hill or the other grape-growing [enterprises] and wineries in the area, you’re marketing products and services that have Canada [written] all over them. So we thank you for marketing not just your product, but also Canada.
The industry itself is under a lot of pressure. We took some steps two years ago to remove the excise tax that was on a lot of the product, which quite frankly was making some of our Canadian product uncompetitive. That was as a result of businesses like Quails’ Gate, Mission Hill and others coming forward and asking us if this would be done and presenting ways that it could happen, so we did that.
So in the ongoing move to see this industry stay competitive and productive in this global downturn, I want to announce two things. At a request from industry groups, we’re removing the tariff related to this thing right here. Would this be one of the barrels, Ben? There is a tariff on this particular [barrel]. The wine companies and growers have to bring these barrels in, and the tariff works out to about $30 a barrel. You can imagine that it obviously goes into the cost of the product here, and it goes into the bottles.
We are announcing today that we’re removing that tariff and making this barrel and the cost to the businesses about $30 less. That’s the first announcement, and we hope that’s okay with you folks.
The second part of the announcement is a joint partnership between Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the industry itself, to a project. Depending on what the various partners step up with, it will be a fund of approximately $1 million to help these family businesses, not just in B.C. but also in the Niagara and Annapolis Valley areas, to market their product abroad, to attend the shows and the important events where our Canadian product, our B.C. product can become known and can be purchased.
So it’s a $1-million fund, Ben. I know you’ll be a partner in that, as will Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and we know this will go a long way to benefiting the industry.
I should also mention to close out these remarks, just to show how word gets around when you’ve got a good product, and Mission Hill is no exception to that—we have representatives here from Mission Hill; when U.S. President Obama visited Ottawa, there was a little lunch, and there was some wine served. That particular wine was the Chenin Blanc right here from Quails’ Gate. So we want to congratulate you for that.
Thank you so much to the representatives here from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Thank you to the industry for what you have done to advance your products and to preserve our agricultural land, to hire people, and to see many great things happen.