Hey Ed, make me the minister responisble for: alcohol

Technically my position would be Solicitor General and Public Security. I really had to hunt to track down where AGLC had been shunted off to, but it works well because this same position is one I want to hold for future police-related actions. More on that another day.

Here is in a nutshell what I would do if I was in charge of Alberta's liquor laws: I'd wipe them.

Since you might want a little more discussion and analysis than just that, I have brought up specific policies and taken action on them:

  • Liquor store and bar hours: There will be no restrictions on the hours of either bars, casinos, nightclubs, liquor stores, or on-reserve Lysol distributors (ha!)

    The reasons for this are many. Chiefly to be addressed is the recent problem in Edmonton and Calgary and Red Deer about late night violence after the bars close down. As has been done to a limited extent in Britain, when you remove mandatory closing times the violence dies down. Why, one asks, is all the Whyte Ave mischief between 2:30 and 3:30am? Could this be because everybody is kicked out of the bar at the same time and forced to compete for sidewalk space, pizza lineup space, and cab hailing space? Could it also have something to do with the fact that when 1am starts up, bar patrons immediately have to order and slam as many drinks as humanly possible before Big Nanny Government tells the bar to cut off the most unconscious drunk and the most timid sipper all at once? When cold weather and driving issues force bars into relatively small areas, can it be such a shock that setting all the drunks loose en masse creates such undesirable conditions? As the minister responsible for liquor liceneces, I will institute last call whenever the bar wishes it to occur. This way drunks leave the bar when they are tired of drinking, not when they have peaked and have to fight for resources outside.

  • Proof of age requirements: None. Bars are free to use any system (including "nothing" to keep minors out of the bar). Liquor stores will have no restriction on the age of customers.

    But there are still age requirements (18+) for bars. How, you may ask? Simple. Any establishment which serves alcohol to minors will be subject to a first-time fine of, say, $12,000 and a two-week suspension of the license. A second offense within 12 months of the first one doubles the fine, and a four week suspension. A third offense within 18 months of the first offense will be met with a $50,000 fine and a one year suspension of the liquor license for that licencee and at that location (ie. no opening the bar under a new name in the same spot). How shall the bar owner prevent minors from being served? They can ID everyone. They can ID nobody and hope they're lucky. They can bring in AGLC's ludicrous existing policies.

    As many are unaware, bars are required to identify anyone entering their establishment who appears to be under 26 years of age. That "appears" is enough of a loophole to drive a Mac truck through. If AGLC sends a 28 year old inspector who "appears" 23 (in their own decision-making analysis) and the inspector isn't IDed upon entry, the bar is fined. So in other words, by allowing a legal patron inside, the bar can be punished under the law. Does that make any sense? Let in a 16 year old who "appears" 31 and you're entirely in the right of law, but will be fined anyways. Ludicrous.

    I, as minister, would change all of that. I use a similar procedure when I'm supervising others at work: not meaning to get into the details, you can cut it as close to the line as you like. But I will nail you to the wall if you cross it. No reason this can't work for bars. Establishments who have done nothing wrong should not be punished.

    As for minors in liquor stores, apparently the idea of "bootlegging" has never occured to liquor regulators. In high school, I remember a young man (neé boy) who was still in Grade 12 at 21 years of age. It didn't bother him though, he bootlegged for the under-18s who needed somebody to hook them up. This fat shitbag would take kids money, go into the liquor store, and buy booze at substantial markups. This is common all over all provinces, and we could end it in Alberta. Simply let the minors purchase the booze! No longer will creepy young adults use the liquor laws as a way to make a cheap profit (and in some cases I've heard of get away with physical and sexual abuse in return for keeping it mum). I'm sure every creepy guy who hangs around high schools will hate this change, but that should be the only person.

  • Drinking and driving: Other than dangerous driving charges for suspects who fail a strictly-written mobility and awareness test, and the crime of drinking while operating a motor vehicle, there will be no laws about drinking and driving.

    I mean it. None.

    Want to have a mickey of gin open in the back? Fine. Want to drink like a fish while your sober driver operates the pickup? A-okay. 11 bottles of sealed beer in an opened box operated by somebody with a 0.00 blood-alcohol-level? Why not? Please note that all of the above are currently illegal in Alberta, and there's no good reason for any of them to be. The latter and former cases are "open alcohol", and the second is even worse, according to current law. Why? Is the driver drunk in any of these scenarios?

    With a passenger drinking, the common argument is always "its too much temptation for the driver". Bull crap. If I'm driving tipsy, and the passenger is drinking, sure I want a beer. But if I'm driving slightly tired, and the passenger is sleeping, I sure as hell want to take a nap too. No law prevents sleeping passengers from "tempting" me [even when the sleeping passenger is wearing a tempting halter top! -ed], nor does a passenger have to refrain from the "tempting" actions of playing PSP or reading a book. Why, if the driver isn't drunk, can't the passenger drink? Likewise, why can't there be open alcohol in a vehicle if nobody is drinking it? Who is it harming?

    What about intoxicated drivers who pass the sobriety test? Put them back on the road? Exactly. We've just admitted that they are not legally impaired, why on earth would we have any moral or legal authority to prevent them from driving in the legal state we found them in?

    This law shall apply to those 18 years of age or older. 16 and 17 year olds cannot blow past 0.00 on a BAL evaluation (which is the only reason such devices would still be required).

  • Liquor distribution, sale, and products: all regulations would be removed. Private firms would be allowed to import, distribute, and sell all alcoholic beverages to liquor stores throughout the province. Liquor stores themselves would be allowed to set up shop anywhere, and keep (as discussed) any hours. Minors would be allowed to purchase alcohol, and also be employed at the store.

    Connect Logistics Services would lose their monopoly on distributing alcohol in Alberta. Vendors would be free to purchase alcohol from any company that they wish, including from suppliers directly. All forms of alcohol, including but not limited to absinthe at any thujone content, may be sold at any vendor.

    Alcohol sales would be permitted at any pricing level. Safeway can give me 2 frozen pizzas for the price of 1, so why can't Liquor World give me 5 cases of Kokanee Gold for the price of 3? A "flat tax" of 1% would be charged on every wholesale price a wholesaler sold (whether to liquor stores or to the public). Sell a $455 bottle of wine? $4.55 tax. $17 for a case of Labatt Wildcat? 17 cents go to the government. The government's take on booze might drop, but the current flat rate of taxation requires undesirable pricing differences between a flat of Alberta Genuine Draft and a Texas Mickey of Jose Curervo. I would eliminate these.

    No regulation would impair the location of liquor stores, regardless of churches and schools nearby.

So there you have it: if I was in charge of Alberta Liquor and Gaming, these are the reforms I would bring in. Alberta would finally have a true advantage: liquor laws that are fair and just and accordance with the principles of only punishing when an offense occurs. Consider this my resume, Ed Stelmach. I look forward to your response.

Update, 8:52pm: The second part of this series has been posted.