BC's election is now past us and the fourth consecutive BC Liberal majority government is poised to take office. Hopefully, a renewed and refreshed government will continue its efforts to modernize BC's liquor laws which gathered some steam in the past year. There is plenty of opportunity for positive reform:
Licensing. A number of good changes were made on the licensing side in the past year (including corkage, catering, movie theatres, tied house amongst others - see LCLB site and earlier articles posted here). However, there is still plenty of updating that could be done for additional improvement. Indeed, a full scale review has not been done for about 20 years and is long overdue (even the NDP promised this in their election platform). The current general manager of the LCLB is retiring at the end of June. As a result, there is an opportunity for the new government to signal that it is committed to further modernization when it appoints the new general manager. I'm hopeful that the new appointee will have plenty of familiarity and experience with the hospitality industry which is directly affected by liquor policy issues and will also have legal/regulatory experience beyond law enforcement. It seems to me that it is time for the LCLB to move beyond its post-prohibition regulatory model and move into the modern world. Let's hope that the new government agrees.
Wholesale Distribution. The "Distribution of Liquor Project" (which would have changed the wholesale distribution system for liquor within BC) was cancelled a while back. However, the government has indicated that it needs a new liquor distribution warehouse and may sell off the old one. Nevertheless, even within the existing system, there are ample opportunities to create efficiency and to make economically positive improvements. Let's hope the new government takes a good look at the existing decades old system and commits itself to modernization that will provide service benefits to the entire hospitality and tourism sector.
Licensees and Consumers. There are many problems with the current system which affect the various categories of licensees (e.g. retailers, restaurants, hotels, bars, wineries) in different ways. Many of these problems also end up having adverse effects on consumers particularly through reduced selection, higher end prices and a lack of competition. These problems could also be resolved by a consultative process aimed at overall modernization.
It seems to me that the continuation of liquor law modernization would be a positive populist move for our new government. The liquor modernization initiatives in the past year were, for the most part, welcomed warmly by both the industry and the public. Further modernization would certainly provide lasting economic and employment benefits for the entire tourism and hospitality sector.