Is the review of the province's liquor laws a welcome modernization or is it bound to become another failed Liberal attempt at privatization?
A review announced this month will fall under the guidance of the new parliamentary secretary for liquor reform, John Yap. And according to the province, nothing is sacrosanct.
The review includes two-stage public and stakeholder consultation beginning this summer.
Letters were sent last week to stakeholders. That will be extended to private retailers, restaurateurs and liquor agency stores. A second phase will see creation of a public website.
The list of what the province calls current limitations is benign: laws that forbid minors from going into pubs in daytime hours, even if they are accompanied by a parent who is going in to eat; not allowing booze sales at farmers markets; and the year-long process to obtain a liquor licence.
Alcohol is a tightly controlled substance, regulated at each step, from purchase by the B.C. Liquor Control Board to wholesaling, marketing and drinking and driving laws.
Revenue to taxpayers last year was nearly $1 billion. That, of course, doesn't take in the social cost in crime and family destruction that alcohol causes.
The province's bottom line is it won't sacrifice revenues — fair enough.
But there are millions more in profits from its private partners in restaurants, pubs and private sellers.
And that brings the inevitable subject of privatization of government stores, tried once outright by the Liberals a decade ago and more recently through the aborted attempt to sell government warehouses in Kamloops and Vancouver.
Today, government stores sell about 41 per cent of all alcohol in B.C. That's about four per cent lower than five years ago. Private stores, which receive a discount on the price in government stores, cannibalized the sales.
So government is getting less revenue for this four per cent of sales that went private, while consumers are paying more for the booze.
The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch is one of the single largest purchasers in the world. Its size brings with it pricing discounts and access to variety.
Plenty of business money will demand more privatization. Those voters smart enough to buy from government stores, with the greatest selection at the lowest price, should ensure government doesn't abandon them to business seeking more profit for no public good.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.