Sunday, December 1, 2013

Yap Succumbs to "Bigs" Lobby

Parliamentary Secretary, John Yap, has just completed his task of reviewing British Columbia's archaic--dark ages, to some--liquor laws.  The largest percentage of requested changes was that B.C. mirror liquor laws in the United States, and allow liquor to be sold in grocery stores.

"...should've been rephrased to state one-cash-register shopping"
                                                                                                        a consumer

Perennial cynics--following the announcement that the review is now complete with 70 recommendations--aren't surprised by the outcome.

The public demanded convenience, and almost got it.

"One-stop shopping for groceries and a six-pack," says a consumer, "should've been rephrased to state 'one-cash-register shopping'," obviously disappointed that there will need to be a separate cash register for liquor from the registers that serve grocery customers.

Cutting to the chase, what the blog title refers to is the ability of the Big Guys to run roughshod over their smaller competitors and win.  The Big Guys don't have to work harder, yet their retail competition is virtually eliminated as government accedes to the Big Guys' lobby.

It's as though government and the Big Guys are "one".
Maybe reports of the government and the Big Guys being "one" are true; maybe the government does "owe" them something for all their tax contributions and levels of employment.

So was there lobbying by the Big Guys during the liquor policy review.
Well sure there was.

Have a good look at this list of Stakeholder Meetings (halfway down the page, at far right).
Among many others, Loblaws and Costco are listed, and those two will suffice for this example.

John Yap's mandate was, among others, to:
The second item created fervent lobbying by the Bigs.

For the number of liquor licenses in B.C. to NOT increase, yet allow liquor sales in grocery stores, the only outcome is that grocery stores would purchase the liquor licenses of liquor retail stores.

And who but the Bigs can afford to purchase a liquor license?  The Wal Marts, Costco Wholesale, etc. can well afford what the smaller independent grocery stores cannot.

But here's the clincher.
To mitigate the length of paperwork required in any government process, look for the Bigs to simply--and immediately--buy the entire Liquor Retail Store, kit and kaboodle, near one of their locations.

That's where the first mandate point (above) comes in.  It actually increases government revenue far beyond what government had considered.  A real estate purchase triggers property transfer tax.  And the Bigs can afford that too because they now gain equity on the asset before it's resold as a commercial premises, albeit without its liquor license at the subsequent sale.

Left out of the equation are mid-to-small sized, independent grocery stores, whose cash reserves were diminished by the arrival in their communities of the Wal Marts and the Costcos.  They can't afford to purchase an established liquor retail store, let alone the liquor retail store's liquor license.  These smaller grocery stores will continue to see their retail sales erode to the point that many will close when consumers buy their groceries where they can also purchase liquor.

There's big money at stake, and only the Bigs will benefit.
"As usual," say some "and the Bigs get Bigger."

Liquor is a big industry in B.C.
In 2013, British Columbians bought more than $1-billion in beer and $1.9-billion in wine and spirits.

As reported by CBC, big-box retailers like Wal Mart and Costco sell liquor in the USA, and Costco operates 11 liquor outlets adjacent to its warehouses in Alberta -- separate, as per regulation.

Costco assistant veep, Jim Andruski gushes "We embrace the opportunity to bring liquor sales to our Costco locations in B.C."

Smaller independent stores will disappear.

Because of the extra revenue in property tax transfer payments, no-one could honestly say this is the Law of Unintended Consequences.  

"More likely Intended, by both the government and the Bigs," offers Kia.

For the record:  The liquor license at Highlands Golf is not for sale (this review does not affect Highlands).  Skeptical?  Well, neither did the planned RU10/RU30 rezoning of acreages in Coldstream, yet we still participated in forming the Coldstream Acreage Owners' Association to support those that it did.  It's all about principles!

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