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Premier Houston pauses program to subsidize imported wine for bottling in Nova Scotia


After much lobbying, the wine industry heard the news they were hoping to hear from Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston on Tuesday.

“The commercial wine program, as has been announced, will be paused, while we look at the parameters of that and look at things like a cap, look at things like the quantum of the subsidy, and what would make sense,” says Houston.

The change of heart comes after a meeting Monday night between the Grape Growers Association, the Wine Growers Association of Nova Scotia (WGANS), and the premier.

“You can’t not feel more optimistic when you finally have a chance to get the premier’s ear and show him the ramifications of the decision that was made in January,” says Karl Coutinho, board chairman of the WGANS.

“I think it’s very positive. I think last night the premier was, admittedly, saying maybe he didn’t see the big picture.”

“It’s a start. We should’ve been consulted from the beginning,” says winery owner, Michael Lightfoot.

The controversial program would have provided between $6 million and $12 million in subsidies to companies that bottle imported wine which is purchased at a cheaper price, in turn allowing them to sell it for less than what producers of locally-grown grapes can charge.

“Our cost of production is so much higher in Nova Scotia. It just doesn’t make sense from a business standpoint,” Lightfoot says.

“For us, what would happen is, it would erode our wine sales and probably force us eventually out of business.”

Houston says the industry has seen locally-grown wine sales swell by 11 per cent. The premier also says he doesn't want to move forward with a program that works for one component while hurting another.

“We’re committed to find a way forward that works for everyone. A way forward that we can all be proud of and maintain our shared pride in the industry,” said Houston.

In fact, Houston says he wants to expand the industry, which contributes a quarter-of-a-billion dollars to the Nova Scotia economy annually. 

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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