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Niagara Falls
Saturday, September 23, 2023
Editorial: Time to support the wine industry
The Lake Report's weekly editorial. File

The time is right to make your voice heard, to weigh in on the vision that the Niagara wine industry is advocating, in concert with partners in tourism, food, culture, and hospitality.

The vision is detailed in the recent Deloitte report called “Uncork Ontario.”

It juxtaposes a tremendous opportunity, to the tune of an $8-billion boost to the economy in the next generation, against existing barriers to growth. Barriers that need to be removed if the opportunity is to be realized.

The opportunity is compelling.  

Niagara already has acclaimed food and wine experiences, the renowned Shaw Festival, beautiful parks, fascinating history, warm hospitality and a great reputation for tourism.

It has direct access to 160 million people within a one- or two-hour flight, and it’s the largest grape growing region on the east coast of North America, the report points out.

Research on other wine regions found that the wine industry is a catalyst for growth in all related sectors, so that investments in the wine industry ripple benefits throughout the region’s economy. The report cites a few examples.

In New Zealand, wine tourists spend 50 per cent more than general tourists. In Germany, wine tourists spend 15 to 25 per cent of their holiday budget on entertainment. In Walla Walla, Wash., 17 per cent of restaurant revenue and 40 per cent of hotel revenue is driven by the wine sector.

The micro climate in Niagara creates a rare pocket of land capable of growing grapes. Worldwide, only 0.53 per cent of arable land is planted with wine grapes and in Ontario it’s only 0.03 per cent.

And there is literally room to grow in Niagara. There are currently 18,000 acres of vineyards here, with conditions available to plant 12,000 more. 

Opportunity knocks, but the barriers are real. 

Some of the telling facts in the report underline how government policies handicap Ontario’s wine industry. 

Taxes top the list. According to the report, Ontario is the most heavily taxed wine region in the world, while in contrast, “leading wine jurisdictions around the world receive billions of dollars in subsidies.”

Not only does that make it difficult for Niagara wineries to make a profit and reinvest capital, it makes it hard to compete with imported wine.

The report reveals that taxes comprise 40 per cent of wine sales in Ontario, versus 8 per cent in the U.S. and 17 per cent in France. 

Market share is key. It has been stagnant and sits at 33 per cent in Ontario. The report cites “the lack of representation on LCBO shelves” and lack of marketing for that.

In other countries, such as Australia, U.S. and France, they dominate domestic market share, with 82 per cent, 60 per cent and 87 per cent, respectively.

Changing those barriers rests with the Ontario government and industry leaders have been sharing the vision and the supporting data to lay out the opportunity as well as the needs.

They report that officials are intrigued with the vision because of its broad base of economic development and benefits, and appear open to hearing about what’s needed to get there.

That’s what makes now the moment to be heard. The big ideas are gaining traction and direct communication from constituents can have real impact at this juncture. 

Whether you write on behalf of your business or organization, or as an individual, your opinion matters.

Here are some email addresses you can send letters to: Premier Doug Ford at premier@ontario.caPatrick Sackville, Ford’s chief of staff, Patrick.Sackville@ontario.ca, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenflavy at minister.fin@ontario.ca.

Have a look at the report for yourself at uncorkontario.ca and take the time to let our politicians know what you think. And stay tuned to see how things develop. 


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