Open the tap

BRITISH Columbia's outdated liquor laws exemplify the worst of nanny-state government. They remain focused on control of sales rather than convenience to the tax-paying customer.

So it's galling to hear that Ontario is about to experiment with the sale of beer, wine and spirits in supermarkets, while British Columbians obviously can't be trusted not to set police cars on fire after picking up a six-pack with the evening meal.

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Our province's liquor laws were initially created in 1921 following a brief and spectacularly unsuccessful attempt at U.S.-style prohibition that began in 1917. The new laws were intended to limit public drunkenness and moral laxity.

Rich Coleman, the minister now responsible for B.C.'s liquor laws, has made some attempt to improve them since inheriting the portfolio, eliminating and clarifying some of the more bizarre restrictions still on the books, and even creating the possibility of being able to buy a glass of wine at some movie houses.

But the impetus to do more appears stalled in the wake of abandoning a poorly conceived attempt to privatize the government's liquor distribution warehouse system.

The B.C. Liberals have done an excellent job of creating effective drinking and driving laws. The number of drinking drivers caught during the holiday season was down substantially from last year. But they appear beholden to beer and wine store licensees who do not want competition and a union in job-protection mode when it comes to the convenience of the customer.

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