News » Whistler

No cheers yet for new liquor legislation

Whistler's resolution gets support at UBCM, province appears reticent to change



Just because Whistler sees the benefits of relaxing provincial liquor laws doesn't mean other B.C. towns and cities are ready to raise a glass in support.

At last week's Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Victoria, Whistler got the chance to see that not everyone agrees that the legislation should change to allow people to walk around freely with booze at fenced-off events where minors are present.

Though Whistler's resolution passed, it sparked a lengthy, and at times off-topic, debate on the convention floor.

What may be a no-brainer in Whistler, it seems, isn't as cut and dry elsewhere.

"We tend to forget that in Whistler because we're all for liberalizing them (liquor laws)," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden of the resolution spearheaded by Sea to Sky communities.

It is one of the benefits of the annual convention — understanding the provincial context. For four days elected officials have the opportunity to air concerns, lobby for change and muster support for initiatives like Whistler's.

The behind-the-scenes message for Whistler from Minister Rich Coleman of energy and mines, isn't promising, despite the majority vote.

"The province seems to be moving very slowly," added Wilhelm-Morden.

In a private meeting with the minister and representatives from the corridor, the mayor specifically raised Divyesh Gadhia's recent letter to the editor (Pique Sept.20, 2012) in the wake of the GranFondo in which he complained about having to choose between drinking a beer in the beer tent or spending time with his family after the ride. He couldn't do both.

The mayor learned that the province is looking at making changes to events like GranFondo. It is not clear yet what the province is contemplating.

A ministry spokesperson emailed Pique this week: "The Special Occasion Licence program is currently undergoing a major review, and the views of the Squamish Lillooet Regional District will be taken into consideration.

"When it comes to liquor, two key priorities for government are restricting minors' access to alcohol and public intoxication. Any changes to the Special Occasion Licence program would have to take these priorities into account and ensure that adequate controls are in place to restrict minors and intoxication."

For new councillor Jack Crompton, this first UBCM was an eye-opening experience, one that he loved.

"Educating ourselves and advocating for Whistler were probably the two most useful things," said Crompton of the convention. "That was a big deal — to be able to meet people to work with us to make positive change."

Like Whistler's meeting with the CEO of BC Transit Manuel Achadinha. "It was very positive," said Crompton.

He said there are a number of things that Whistler is working on with the Crown corporation, things designed to improve transit in the resort. Whistler is waiting now to see if those lobbying efforts will be fruitful in the weeks to come.

"I'm hopeful that there will be some positive news coming out of that one," added the mayor.

She also met with senior officials to plead the case for Whistler to access the multi-million dollar gas tax fund to help connect the last remaining homes on Alta Lake Road to the municipal sewer.

She described feeling "cautiously optimistic" on that file.

The UBCM was also a chance to not only look outside of the corridor but also look ahead to what's coming down the pipeline, said Crompton.

In particular, the province is working on the Natural Resource Road Act, legislation for 2014 that will impact roads into the backcountry surrounding Whistler.

Coming out of the meetings at UBCM, Whistler is considering preparing an inventory of backcountry roads in the immediate area and who maintains them in an effort to mitigate potential problems in the future.

Add a comment