This past August the BC Liberal Government began what they are calling the "BC Liquor Policy Review" headed up by John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney General and Justice Minister, Suzanne Anton.
According to the website, the consultation will be conducted in two phases, with Phase 1 having begun in August 2013, when Yap, the Liberal MLA for Richmond-Steveston, sent letters "to key industry groups and stakeholders, and more than 10,000 liquor licensees and liquor agency stores, seeking input on making practical, common-sense change to B.C.'s liquor policy."
Phase 2, which began mid-September and runs until October 31, 2013, is where the general public have their say, with Yap asking for feedback from British Columbians, inviting them submit their "ideas and comments," with the website stating, "your ideas and comments will be considered in the final report to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice."
If you haven't checked out the policy review website, it is quite comprehensive and well thought out and worth a look.
And to further prove they have not already made up their minds as to what changes will be made, and are not just going through the motions, the Liberals are, according to their website, inviting "stakeholders from local governments, First nations, police, industry, health and social policy groups" to meet with Yap face-to-face.
One of the "social policy groups" meeting with Yap is the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) BC after Vancouver Branch President, Adam Chatburn, contacted the consultation organizers and insisted CAMRA BC, who are now representing close to 1400 total members from five active branches, be heard.
Next Tuesday, Sept 24th, Chatburn, CAMRA BC President, Rick Green, and myself, as CAMRA Powell River President, are meeting with Yap, along with other government types, Ken Dawson and Suneil Karod, who are representing the office's of the Premier and Attorney General respectively. It is our hope that we can get the government types to listen to reason and make some of the changes CAMRA has been pushing for in this province over the past few years.
Chatburn has submitted a brief letter outlining what CAMRA is aiming to talk about and our group will present our ideas for change in more detail, and reasoning for why they are good changes for BC and the BC craft beer consumer, during the meeting. You can check out CAMRA Vancouver's page dedicated to the process here.
A few of the things CAMRA wants to push are not surprising, such as getting the growler mark-up reversed (lowered), trying to ensure consumer protection in regards to misrepresented serving sizes and allowing craft beer to be sold at farmers markets, all active CAMRA Vancouver campaigns.
Another change we want to push for is ensuring greater consumer access to BC-brewed, craft beers by pushing for automatic listings for beers brewed in the province, if the brewery so wishes to sell their beer in their local BC Liquor Stores and having the BC Liquor Stores feature BC craft beer in a distinct section of the store similar to how wine is marketed. CAMRA is also looking at having the government allow licensees to be able to have the ability to change the price of their drinks throughout the day, something that was banned in the 1980's in this province but which is allowed, with government guidelines and restrictions, in most provinces.
For a complete list of what is on the agenda, look at the letter linked above.
I know some will disagree with our list or have their own spins on the issues we are addressing, but we came up with what we thought was best and, to tell you the truth, when we put out the call to members to give us feed back on what they wanted, we got very little feedback.
Regardless if you agree or disagree with CAMRA's agenda, I encourage you to go to the site, post your comments and/or ideas and be heard.
This is probably the only chance, for decades to come, to be heard in regards to liquor policy and the government says they are listening, so speak. If you are like the majority of us who enjoy a drink here and there, you have most likely complained about our outdated and restrictive liquor laws so this is your chance to complain directly to those who have the power to make changes instead of whining to the barfly seated next to you at your local.
If you do not get involved in a process you have been invited to participate in, you have no grounds to complain about the outcomes from that process later on if you ignore that invitation.
If Twitter is more your thing, look for the Twitter town hall meeting on Sunday, September 29, 2013 1800-1900 hours (6-7 PM) where you can tweet your suggestions and comments to @John_yap
I'll let you know next week how our meeting went when I get back from Vancouver. I am hoping I can get a read on how Yap & Co feel about our ideas during the meeting and really hope we get lots of questions and feedback and not yawns and glazed looks.
In the meantime, make yourself heard.