Opinion Editorial

B.C. booze changes either dumb or devious 0

Bill Tieleman

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

The June 20 introduction of minimum pricing makes B.C. beer prices per ounce the highest in Canada. (FILE PHOTO)

The June 20 introduction of minimum pricing makes B.C. beer prices per ounce the highest in Canada. (FILE PHOTO)

Is the BC Liberal government incredibly dumb bringing in “happy hour” rules that actually increase – not lower – the price of beer, wine and cocktails through minimum prices?

Or did the BC Liberals actually reward some of their biggest financial supporters by reducing competition based on price, to the benefit of some of the province’s largest bar and restaurant chains — at the expense of independent pubs?

A consumer group thinks the evidence points to a Machiavellian move hurting both consumers and smaller liquor outlets alike, by increasing prices for a pint of beer by $2 or more, and a pitcher of beer up $5.

The entire liquor industry should be in an uproar over the June 20 introduction of minimum pricing, making B.C. beer prices per ounce the highest in Canada at 25 cents, more than double the roughly 11-cent price previously.

Instead, the brewing revolt is being led by a consumer group – the Campaign for Real Ale Society – and some small pubs, while big bar chains are either surprisingly silent or remarkably happy, with one buying newspaper and bus shelter ads proclaiming “Prohibition is over.”

CAMRA spokesman Paddy Treavor says drinkers should be suspicious.

“I believe that the B.C. government either willingly or were duped by special interest groups into making prices higher,” Treavor told me during a phone interview from Powell River Sunday. “The big chains put their thumb on independent and smaller outlets.

“They don’t want to have to compete with places that were offering $3.50 drinks – now they can put the blame on the government for higher prices.”

John Yap, the Richmond-Steveston MLA and parliamentary secretary for liquor reform, defends the higher-priced happy hours on “safety” grounds, despite no evidence previously that lower prices were a problem.

“This is one of the most important public safety and health aspects of the recommendations that we brought in,” Yap told Global TV July 4.

I’m doubtful, so I filed a Freedom of Information request seeking all correspondence between the government and liquor interests prior to “unhappy hour” being introduced.

Meantime, join my new Facebook page where over 1,100 people have signed on.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/ Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman

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Are the BC Liberals dumb or devious with Happy Hour rules that increase drink prices?

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