Liquor sales account for over $1 billion in revenue each year to the provincial government. John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform, has begun a comprehensive review of BC’s antiquated liquor laws, with the goal of improving consumer convenience and growing B.C.’s economy, while continuing to ensure public safety.
The review began last week with a request for feedback from key industry groups and stakeholders. Letters will be sent out to more than 10,000 liquor licensees and liquor agency stores, and following that Yap will meet with groups from industry, local governments, First Nations, police, and health and social policy associations throughout September and October.
Yap will also engage the broader public with a Liquor Policy Review website that will be launched in September. The site will allow British Columbians to provide input, and is an opportunity for people to better understand how BC’s liquor system works today.
“I look forward to working with industry representatives, health and public-safety advocates and engaging directly with the public online as we look for commonsense ways to modernize our liquor laws in this province,” says Yap. “I know many British Columbians have a lot of opinions and our government is open to hearing them as we move forward in this process.”
“Right now, some of B.C.’s liquor laws go back many years,” says Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “In concert with industry and citizens, we are looking to make practical and responsible changes which promote consumer convenience and economic growth in the province, with a strong eye to maintaining public safety and protecting the health of our citizens.”
Some limitations to convenience and economic activity that British Columbians have noted include: not allowing minors with parents or guardians into pubs that serve food during daytime hours; not allowing wines and other local liquor to be sold at farmers’ markets; not allowing establishments like spas to be eligible for licensing permits; taking upwards of a year to obtain a licence for bars and pubs.
Following consultation, Yap’s report will be submitted to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice by Nov. 25, 2013. His report, which will be released to the public, will inform discussion and decision by government about any proposed changes.
The province’s liquor laws were last reviewed in 1999, but public consultation was not a component of that review.
Government regulates liquor in order to balance economic and social interests with the need to ensure public safety and the public interest. Recommendations from the review are expected to recognize the importance of jobs and investment in the hospitality, tourism and agrifoods sectors, in support of the BC Jobs Plan. The terms of reference for the review include ensuring that government revenue is maintained or increased, and minimizing health and social harms caused by liquor.
Yap’s terms of reference for the review can be found at www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/public/lclb/YapTermsOfReference.pdf