B.C. VIEWS: Province eyes new round of liquor reforms

Liberal government seeks creative ways to liberalize alcohol sales without social damage

A new liquor licence for party buses could help reduce impaired driving.

VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal government is ordering up another round of liquor regulation changes, looking for ways to make life easier for businesses and customers without aggravating the health and social problems associated with alcohol.

Discussions with B.C.’s 10,000 liquor licence holders have identified a few problems that should be fixed. Going into a consultation phase that runs to October, the government is looking for answers to a few obvious questions, such as why it takes a pub or bar up to a year to get a licence.

Another question: why can a family with under-aged children go into a licensed restaurant for lunch, but can’t go to a pub and place the exact same food and drink order? This should be allowed, perhaps until the traditional 5 p.m. “happy hour” when the pub reverts to adults-only.

A couple of suggestions have come out of the healthy growth of B.C. wine, craft beer and distillery operations. Look for new licence opportunities for farmers’ markets to sell local beverages along with the produce and preserves.

Letters inviting suggestions from existing licence holders have gone out, and Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap will be meeting this fall with industry groups, local governments, police, health and social policy organizations and First Nations in the fall.

A website will be put up in September so members of the public can have their say. Here’s my suggestion to start things off.

Recent incidents involving so-called “party buses” shone a light on this growing industry, The sudden death of a 16-year-old on a party bus outing in Surrey in February turned out not to be alcohol-related, but to no one’s surprise, open liquor was found aboard the bus.

Open liquor isn’t allowed in any vehicle, but perhaps a new kind of special event licence could be created for party buses. They have been viewed mainly as part of the solution to impaired driving, and the situation isn’t much different from a supervised event on a boat.

Here’s another suggestion. Gourmet cooking classes are becoming popular, with customers preparing and then enjoying their meals. Why not licence these establishments, at least so people can bring their own wine for dinner?

Both the B.C. Liberals and NDP have advocated for easing the archaic rules on inter-provincial trade in wine. B.C. lifted its restrictions on mail-order wine and has urged other provinces to follow suit.

There are a couple of reasons why this Prohibition-era structure persists. Liquor sales are a cash cow for provincial governments, and every case of wine brought in from elsewhere is lost profit for the provincial wholesale monopoly. Then there is the local industry lobby that would rather not add to its competition.

Premier Christy Clark pressed this point at the recent premiers’ meeting in Ontario wine country, bringing in the maximum amount of B.C. wine allowed under Ontario rules and urging free trade in Canadian wine.

The Toronto media drank it up, aghast that they were barred from ordering the latest Naramata Bench tipples directly. No movement so far from the Ontario government, in a province that has done well developing its own wine industry.

The B.C. government will no doubt be lobbied again to allow beer and wine sales in grocery and convenience stores. Our politicians show little interest in that, which is understandable. The B.C. Liberals don’t want to upset the private liquor stores they have nurtured for a decade, and the NDP would never risk annoying the government liquor store union.

There are more creative ways to liberalize alcohol sales.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.comTwitter: @tomfletcherbc Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Just Posted

Gas price drop expected to hit Fraser Valley today

Analyst says to take advantage, warns slight increase may follow

No charges against cop accused of stuffing money into sock during search

BC Prosecution Service says not enough evidence against Abbotsford officer

$7.4 million in funding for seniors’ housing in Mission

Province announced today that it will provide funding for 74 new housing units for local seniors

Gas prices in Metro Vancouver to drop six cents

But a ‘volatile’ market could lead to increases in the coming weeks

Abbotsford murder victim identified as Jagvir Malhi

Police say killing linked to Lower Mainland gang conflict

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Children’s strawberry-flavoured medicines recalled due to faulty safety cap

Three different acetaminophen syrups part of nationwide recall

Around the BCHL: Junior A cities to host World Junior tuneup games

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the league and around the junior A world.

International students hit hard by B.C. tuition fee hikes

Campaign seeks regulatory controls be imposed on post-secondary institutions

Trudeau pushes for more Saudi accountability in Khashoggi killing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is still seeking clear answers from Saudi Arabia about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi

School bullying video shows how people with disabilities are devalued: advocates

Brett Corbett, who has cerebral palsy, is seen in a video being stepped while lying in water

CFL will use extra on-field official to watch for illegal blows to quarterback

If the extra official sees an illegal blow that has not already been flagged, they will advise the head referee, who can then assess a penalty for roughing the passer

Older B.C. drivers subsidizing younger ones, study finds

ICBC protects higher-risk drivers, pays for testing costs

5 to start your day

A choice on light rail versus SkyTrain for Surrey, a Chilliwack teacher suspended for touching a colleague’s buttocks and more

Most Read