British Columbia Premier John Horgan leaves a coffee shop after announcing changes to the province’s minimum wage, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday February 8, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. already seeking new markets for wine in Asia and the U.S.: premier Horgan

VANCOUVER — Premier John Horgan says he plans to intensify efforts to find new markets for B.C. wine, which was already being done before Alberta’s ban over the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Horgan said he promoted the industry during a recent trip to China, South Korea and Japan, and he plans to discuss increasing the province’s market share south of the border on a trip to Washington state next month.

“We are defending industries right now,” Horgan said Thursday. “We’ve made it clear that we are going to be seeking new markets to replace any lost market we may have in Alberta.”

The wine prohibition is the latest escalation of a dispute between the two provinces over the pipeline expansion project by Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd.

B.C. announced plans last week to review limits on diluted bitumen shipments until it’s confident a spill can be cleaned up.

Alberta responded by halting talks on purchasing electricity from B.C. before it banned wine imports from its neighbour.

Alberta says it imported about 17 million bottles of B.C. wine last year, worth an estimated $70 million.

Horgan said the province is investigating whether the ban violates interprovincial trade agreements.

“We’re reviewing our options and we’ll take action when appropriate,” he added,

Horgan maintains the proposal to limit diluted bitumen shipments is not meant to be provocative but is aimed at protecting B.C.’s environment and economy. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has called the proposal an unconstitutional attempt to stop the $7.4-billion pipeline expansion.

Ottawa has already approved the project, which would triple the capacity of the pipeline between Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., and increase tanker traffic off the west coast sevenfold.

Earlier Thursday, the federal government announced an overhaul of the environmental assessment process that was used to approve the Trans Mountain project. Under the new rules, projects would have to be assessed and either approved or denied within two years, and reviews would consider health, social and economic effects, as well as Indigenous rights.

Horgan said he hadn’t had a chance to read the entire proposal, but he commended the federal government for recognizing the need to keep pace with changing views and perspectives.

The changes also seem to suggest the former system was flawed, he said.

“Does this say that the processes that were in place yesterday were adequate? Clearly the federal government doesn’t think so and many British Columbians don’t think so,” Horgan said.

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