The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Thursday, August 15, 2002

British Columbia political musings

It's odd when a week goes by when I, a confirmed non-fan or the Campbell government, can find little to criticize them for. But that's the sort of week that it's been so far.

Earlier this week, Solicitor-General Rich Coleman announced new liquor regulations. Bars will be able to stay open until 4 A.M. with city approval, and the regulations concerning things like decor, number and size of television sets, and floor-plan layout will be reduced or eliminated. These rule changes have been a long time coming, and I think that they're good ones.

Having nineteen categories of liquor licences was ridiculous; the previous regulatory regime was a mishmash of regulations dating back to the 1930's, and rarely revised or consolidated.

The laws were a holdover from the days when only hotels could operate "beer parlours"; and activities such as dancing and live entertainment were seen to need regulation. It's about time that they were fixed, and reforming the liquor laws is not a left-right issue at all. In fact, the previous NDP government had begun to embark on this difficult task in 1999. NDP leader Joy MacPhail has said that she has no problem with the proposed new rules as long as they are implemented in such a way as to protect public safety. Contrary to popular misconceptions, those on the left of the political spectrum are not necessarily in favour of redundant regulations for their own sake.

Some of the strongest opposition to the new rules comes from existing licensees. Those who currently have cabaret, hotel pub, and neighbourhood pub licences fear that the new rules will spread the limited number of drinkers among a much greater number of establishments.

"We're shocked [about the new regulations]," said James Chase, executive vice-president of the B.C. and Yukon Hotels Association. "Restaurants out-number hotels and pubs 5-1," he said. "It's destructive competition."

The hotel owners are particularly disturbed because many of them had to invest or borrow millions of dollars to acquire a hotel and its pub licence, and now restaurateurs who have invested (or borrowed) far less can now compete for the same market.

This helps put paid to the myth that business operators hate regulation of businesses. Perhaps the correct statement should be: Business owners hate regulation that prevent them from entering a market, but love regulations that keep competitors from easily entering the marketplace.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to a possible 4 A.M. last call. Perhaps now we'll also have adequate transit when the bars let out so that patrons can get home without needing to shell out cab fare. Certainly, public transportation is also a great alternative to worrying about designated drivers or, God forbid, drunk driving.

Here's some reaction from the Victoria Times-Colonist that sums up a lot of peoples' feelings on the government's decision.

Also, this week there were more revelations that the provincial Liberals were organizing a $10,000-a-plate fundraiser for PR firms that are interested in securing government work. Many local pundits, including the Vancouver Sun editorial board, and columnist Barbara Yaffe, were ostensibly outraged that the government party was apparently selling access in return for generous donations.

What were people expecting?

The B.C. Liberal Party is no different than other parties; they're always out to raise money. Unlike the 1990's, where their fund-raising technique was to request money in order to throw out the socialist hordes in Victoria, they now are in power, and their new carrot to potential donors is access to government, and dibs on contracts and easy approvals of mining and forestry projects.

Now, the party plea is to defend the Liberal bearers of all things good and wonderful from the socialist hordes who are
plotting to recall selected Liberal MLAs. For this, the B.C. Liberal party needs donors. In return, the party is giving potential donors something very valuable indeed.

Is this conduct right? No, of course not. Were you really expecting something different from the B.C. Liberals?

If you answered yes to that last question, you're a fool, or perhaps a little too loyal to the party.

What is notable is that as Leader of the Opposition, Gordon Campbell criticized the NDP for $300-a-plate dinners where former premier Glen Clark was in attendance. Now, while $300 is a fair bit of money, it is the same as the Canadian Alliance charged for its "leadership dinner" and fundraiser in Vancouver earlier this year. The Liberals routinely charge more than this for their fundraisers, and often raise more than $1000 per attendee at many such events.

Of course, the prospect of well-heeled business people donating $2000, or $10,000 each to the party for the privilege of attending a very small event with a senior political official smells much worse than events like a $300 per person fundraising dinner.

Unfortunately, it is politics as usual. The most that will come out of this is that the opposition will have some more mud to throw at the Liberals, and that the most generous donors will get better treatment from the government in terms of contracts, and speedier regulatory approval.

Monkey see, monkey do...
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