Fort McMurray restaurant that started it all puts a cork in its B.C. wine boycott

Fort McMurray restaurant that started it all puts a cork in its B.C. wine boycott

Karen Collins, owner of the first business in Alberta to ban B.C. wine, is toasting to victory after B.C. announced it will shelve its restrictions on increased bitumen shipments through the province.

B.C. announced Thursday it will back down from its plan to implement the ban on increased oilsands pipeline shipments. Instead it will now ask the courts to decide.

Collins, who owns the Asti Trattoria Italiana restaurant in Fort McMurray, Alta., cancelled her protest when she heard the news.

"I will be lifting the ban. I always said all along if [B.C.] Premier John Horgan changes his stance, I would also put B.C. wines back on my menu," Collins said.

Collins's protest started with a single post on her restaurant's Facebook page.

Then, in early February, Premier Rachel Notley announced the province would impose a ban on all B.C. wine imported into the province.

NDP political fortunes in Fort McMurray

Fort McMurray oilsands activist and marketing consultant Robbie Picard said Notley's public relations tactics were savvy.

While also applauding the support of the United Conservative Party, Picard said Notley's strong stance boosted her likability in the oilsands capital.

"I will say she has improved in Fort McMurray quite a bit," Picard said. "A lot of people gained respect for her for standing up for them.

"People in Fort McMurray are big enough to understand this is not about partisan politics. It is about our livelihoods."

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But will it translate into more votes and possibly a seat for the NDP in Fort McMurray?

Picard said his gut tells him any traction the NDP gains likely won't be enough to elect an NDP MLA in northeastern Alberta.

However, for Collins, Notley's actions impressed her and she will be thinking twice before she goes to the polls in 2019, she said.

"I never voted for them [the NDP]. I have a lot to think about in the next upcoming election," Collins said. 

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on Facebook and Twitter, email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca