PENTICTON, B.C. - Federal NDP house leader Nathan Cullen says the Conservatives have created a tempest in a wine glass by accusing New Democrats of blocking a bill to update Canada's archaic liquor laws.
Okanagan Coquihalla Conservative MP Dan Albas said an NDP filibuster Tuesday night forced his private members bill to the bottom of the order paper, meaning changes to remove restrictions on the inter-provincial movement of wine won't reach third reading until at least the fall.
"This was a political tactic used by the NDP for whatever reason," Albas said.
"They certainly don't seem to understand how important it is for this bill to go forward, so we can have both grape growers and vintners take advantage of this growing cycle, rather than having to wait till next year, which is currently what will happen."
But Cullen said New Democrats have offered to ensure Bill C-311 passes before the summer break.
"We've already moved to allow the bill to get through before the summer recess, and so I have no idea why the Conservatives are lighting their hair on fire. They are trying to cause a controversy where there is none," he said.
He disputes Albas' claims that the opposition is demanding amendments to the bill, dubbed 'free my grapes", instead accusing the Conservatives of suffering hangovers from recent polling or bad news on the budget.
"I wish they would just focus a little bit more on being positive and learning how to work with other people," Cullen said.
Bill C-311 would remove federal legislation restricting a tourist from buying wine at vineyards, including those in the Okanagan, Ontario's Niagara-on-the-Lake or Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, and taking the bottle back with them to their home province.
Supporters of the bill say it will reduce unnecessary inter-provincial trade barriers, while promoting jobs and growth in Canada's wine industry.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he also supports the removal of trade barriers to wine within Canada, saying the current law makes no sense.
"Yeah, it's kinda crazy because you know you can move beer and wine across the border with the United States and elsewhere," he said.