Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My response to Minister Yap's Post on Liquor Reform in British Columbia

Minister Yap recently posted here  regarding the sale of beer and wine in liquor stores.  I for one applaud this effort by the Christy Clark government to once again attempt to modernize British Columbia's antiquated liquor laws.  Province Newspaper columnist Jon Ferry also quoted from my posting here.  My response which I also posted on the Minister's blog is as follows:

First of all British Columbia has the highest mark up and taxes on alcohol in North America and the fifth highest in the world. That is quite an achievement when one considers that Quebec is usually noted for its heavy handed taxation.
But we have to live with the legacy of the Temperance movement and its influence with the Social Credit Government of WAC Bennett long after prohibition had ended in other jurisdictions. That is why until the 1970s beer halls were dingy dark places in B.C. But we have come a long way since then, but not without a lot of kicking and struggling. At one point it was a big deal that a famous restaurant chain wanted to have large TV screens in their bars.
At the time it was illegal and after a lot of ridicule in the media, and lobbying at the legislature, the government of the day made this modest change. So it is with this backdrop in mind that I answer the Minister’s question regarding the sale of alcohol in grocery stores.
Being able to buy wine in a grocery store is the mark of a civilized society. Having to pay 113% in taxes on a bottle of wine is the mark of a greedy government. Yes we should be able to buy wine in grocery stores but we should not have to be shelling out $20 or $30 for bottles of wine that would be considered utter swill in most other areas of the first world.
I think that any grocery store should be able to sell wine, and I think that any convenience store should be able to sell beer and wine. I think that hard liquor should be reserved for private liquor stores and I think that government liquor stores should be gradually phased out. But most of all the mark up on beer wine and spirits should be brought down to a level that is more reasonable than 113 per cent.
There are many fine scotches that are simply not brought to BC because once the taxes and mark ups are applied they become far too expensive to be sold in any quantity. Thus in an effort to nanny state consumers, all you end up doing is depriving consumers of choice.