BC government seeks sober new thinking on liquor policy

Online consultation process promises input from all demographic groups

By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor

The BC government is proactively looking for public input on how to reform its outdated liquor policies.

The British Columbia liquor policy review is the consultation process, taking place primarily online. The government is soliciting thoughts from people across the province on how to “improve consumer convenience” while growing the economy and maintaining public safety. Beer and liquor sales account for approximately $1-billion in provincial tax revenues every year.

According to provincial government data, “British Columbians consume approximately 34-million cases of beer, 6.7-million cases of wine, 2.7-million cases of spirits, and 3.5-million cases of ciders and coolers” every year.

Reform in this area is so critical to the newly re-elected BC Liberals that it warrants a parliamentary secretary for liquor policy reform, a portfolio currently overseen by Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap.

Since the BC Liberals took office in 2001, there have been several changes to laws and regulations surrounding liquor control. The last major consultative process on liquor laws occurred in 1999, and the government admits that British Columbia is due for a look at the entire system.

“It’s not that there haven’t been changes here and there, but there is a feeling from lots of people that we should take a comprehensive look,” Yap said in an interview earlier this month. “So, we are meeting with as many people as we can and looking for their ideas and opinions.”

One unique element about the online advisory process is that suggestions and ideas on provincial liquor laws can be submitted by anyone—not only those over 19 years of age who are legally allowed to consume alcohol. It also enables the process to be enjoyed by a greater number of people, especially youth and student demographics who may feel more comfortable submitting ideas online as opposed to attending town hall meetings.

British Columbians have until October 31 to submit their thoughts on the liquor policy review website. The submissions will then be presented to Suzanne Anton, BC’s attorney general, for additional review and legislation drafting. The changes proposed by this consultation could come into effect as early as next spring.

Some popular changes already proposed in the consultation include the introduction of happy hours (British Columbia is the only Canadian province which prohibits happy hours) and the selling of alcohol in grocery stores, a policy currently enjoyed by those in Quebec.

Those interested in submitting their thoughts for the provincial government can do so in a variety of ways. For more information on how you can participate, visit engage.gov.bc.ca/liquorpolicyreview/conversations/