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No major revamp of liquor laws on horizon

Council continues to push for change in the face of antiquated rules




Getting revamped liquor laws throughout B.C. may be harder than Whistler council anticipated.

That much was evident this week after a presentation from representatives of Liquor Control and Licensing Branch who came to talk to council at Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting.

After an in-depth presentation on the various liquor laws, Whistler's mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, commented on the myriad of rules held over from decades ago that just don't make sense.

She asked the assistant deputy minister and general manager of the branch Karen Ayers if the province would be doing a full-scale overhaul of the liquor laws, like Ontario has recently done.

Ayers answered: "Their rules are quite a bit..."

Her short paused was filled by the word "liberal" from several councillors.

"Liberal," Ayers conceded.

"And they have not been without their problems."

She added: "At this point in time government is not looking at broad changes."

Whistler council, however, is continuing to push to have the provincial liquor laws relaxed, in particular to allow patrons at events held at Whistler Olympic Plaza, for example, to walk freely within the fenced area with an alcoholic beverage in the company of minors.

"One of the challenges we have is it's against the law to consume liquor in a public place," explained Ayers.

And of paramount concern is public safety and underage drinking. Both issues recently came to light in the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots, where alcohol was considered to be a factor.

As for the specific reason why Whistler did not get a liquor license in the plaza last summer to allow patrons to walk throughout the site, Ayers said they make decisions around the rules set out in the legislation.

"We have to make decisions within the statutory framework," she explained.

Councillor Andrée Janyk said: "Having just been to Europe, it's just so much more relaxed to have a drink there."

Council's frustration with the "antiquated" liquor laws in B.C. spilled over to the evening meeting after questions from the public about police cracking down on drinking in public parks.

"The province really should (come) into the 21st century with liquor regulations," said the mayor.

When asked by a member of the public if Whistler would take a more activist role on the issue, the mayor said:

"I don't know if we want our three-year mandate defined by liquor licensing but...maybe we will."

(See related story, page 20)

Mayor eyes a spot on provincial transit board

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is hoping to be chosen by Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom to sit on the board of directors of BC Transit.

It's a move that she thinks will not only be personally fulfilling but could also be good for Whistler.

"I've been interested in transit for many years," she explained of her quest to sit on the select board.

"I've sat on the transit management committee from 2005-2008 and before that from 1996-1999. So it's of interest to me. And aside from that, I think it would be very good for Whistler if Whistler's mayor were on the board. And I think I can bring some things to the board just because we have had a very interesting, and at times, extremely successful transit system here."

The BC Transit board is made up of seven members, three appointed and four elected. Those elected are mayors from around the province and there are now two openings for the elected officials.

Wilhelm-Morden, vying for one of those openings, did not know when Minister Lekstrom would make his decision.

The vacant positions will be filled in 2012/13.