Bottles of Pelee Island Winery’s LOLA Rose and Sparkling Vidal Wine in May 2019.
Nick Brancaccio / Windsor Star
Online backlash, accusations of buying political influence, calls for a boycott — Who knew that an outright endorsement by Ontario Premier Doug Ford could cause so much trouble for an Essex County business?Pelee Island Winery has found itself having to do damage control after #BoycottPeleeWinery suddenly became a trending topic on Twitter.The trouble started with a video tweeted on Sunday by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s promotional account (some say propaganda account) Ontario News Now.The video shows a smiling Ford joining Rick Nicholls — Tory MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington — on a tour of Pelee Island Winery in Kingsville.The two politicians praise Pelee Island Winery’s job creation and the quality of its products. “Love it,” says Ford — who doesn’t drink alcohol.“Go out and buy a bottle of Pelee Island wine. It’s great. It’s coming to a convenience store close to you.”Part of the Ontario PC government’s platform is expansion of wine and beer sales to corner stores.But critics of Ford and the Tories were quick to point out that, according to Elections Ontario, Pelee Island Winery’s president Walter Schmoranz made two donations to the Ontario PC Party over the past year, totalling $2,050 — $450 in excess of the $1,600 limit that any single voter can contribute to a political party in Ontario.Within hours, @Peleewinery became a political football on Twitter, with opponents of Ford and the Tories holding up the video endorsement as an example of corrupt politicking, and declaring they would no longer buy the winery’s products.“Ontario has 180 fantastic wineries. I’m using my purchasing power, as a consumer, on ones that don’t appear in Premier’s Office propaganda videos, when Ford’s policies harm kids,” tweeted autism funding activist Mike Moffatt.“I mean, we’re absolutely hemorrhaging money paying for health care that should be covered by our tax dollars. Why on earth would I take what’s left in my wallet and hand it over to a company working against us?”I mean, we’re absolutely hemorrhaging money paying for health care that should be covered by our tax dollars. Why on earth would I take what’s left in my wallet and hand it over to a company working against us? @Peleewinery— Mike P. “Ontario Dad” Moffatt 🇨🇦🏅🏅 (@MikePMoffatt) July 30, 2019The Ontario Public Service Employees Union issued a news release demanding that Ontario News Now be shut down, describing the controversy involving Schmoranz and Pelee Island Winery as an example of Ford’s “gravy train.”“Talk about blurred ethical boundaries,” said OPSEU president Warren Thomas.“The premier says he can’t be bought, but the latest ONN scandal proves that airtime on his propaganda network definitely can be.”The backlash led to Pelee Island Winery tweeting on Monday morning that the purpose of Ford’s visit to the winery was “to discuss the future of the wine and grape industry in Ontario.”Darryl MacMillan, Pelee Island Winery’s sales and marketing manager, issued a statement that the discussion with the premier involved “many important priorities facing grape growers and craft wineries in Ontario.”“These included modernizing the import tax levied on wine, supporting domestic wine grape producers in securing a stable market, flooding and shoreline erosion in Essex County and Pelee Island, and the need for infrastructure improvements,” MacMillan stated.MacMillan emphasized the importance of working with the province, and said Pelee Island Winery is committed to to securing “a brighter future for our industry and wine country communities.”Related
But University of Windsor political science professor Lydia Miljan cautioned against getting caught up in storms of outrage on Twitter — whatever your political stripe.“I’m not sure we should be using Twitter as our moral compass,” Miljan said.“This is always going to be a very polarizing government. Doug Ford is always going to be a polarizing leader… (This controversy) has more to do with Doug Ford being who he is than it does with Pelee Island Winery.”Miljan noted that it’s not uncommon for politicians to express support for a small business. She questioned if those being vocal about the boycott were buyers of Pelee Island Winery products to begin with.“That’s part of the nature of Twitter … There’s research that shows Twitter is overtly negative. Much more negative than the real world,” Miljan said.“Twitter is an indicator of public opinion — but a very motivated, critical opinion that is not necessarily representative of the population as a whole.”firstname.lastname@example.org
A bottle of Pelee Island Winery Beerenauslese ice wine in November 2012.
Tyler Brownbridge /
Walter Schmoranz, president of Pelee Island Winery, in March 2019.
Dax Melmer /