Campbell Liberals 'Swiss cheese law' so weak that private liquor retailers walk right through
Victoria (31 Jan. 2007) - Private liquor lobbyists routinely twist the arm of Premier Gordon Campbell's Liberal government without even bothering to sign up with the B.C. lobbyists' registry. The law is so weak they can ignore it completely.
Dave Crown, former president of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C. (ABLE), admitted in an interview this week with Vancouver 24 Hours that the group talks with government representatives "all the time."
"That's ABLE's job - to liaison with government and to deliver one strong message for the whole [private liquor store] industry to government consistently," Crown told reporter Sean Holman.
Crown also acknowledged that he has spoken directly to Liberal politicians in the past about reducing the price alliance members (private retailers) pay the province for liquor supplies.
"So why then doesn't his name show up on the lobbyist registry?" Holman asks. "Well, Crown says he isn't paid for his work. And, under the Lobbyists Registration Act, that means he doesn't need to disclose his activities."
'Fulfilling' a promise
It's a loophole inserted by the Campbell Liberals when they "fulfilled" a 2001 election promise to run the most open and accountable government in Canada. Yet even lobbyists who get paid directly to arm-twist politicians and bureaucrats are excused from registering if they spend less than 20% of their work hours each month.
It's a classic "Swiss cheese law" with holes so plentiful and spacious that lobbyists feel free to pay no attention whatsoever.
As Holman notes, not a single liquor lobbyist has registered under this toothless "reform" despite the sad reality to taxpayers that the private liquor industry exerts a powerful influence on the Campbell Liberals.
As the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) has noted, the latest gift by the Liberals to private liquor retailers - a 5% cut in the price they pay for liquor, wine, beer and other spirits - will cost taxpayers a further $20 million by the end of 2007.
In fact, it raises to some $90 million the overall value in financial breaks that private liquor interests have received from the Campbell Liberals since 2004. The discount rate they pay for liquor has been widened not once, but three times, over the period.
ABLE is so cocky about its routine lobbying of the province that it virtually brags about the fact on its web site.
"ABLE BC provides support to government and its members on key elements needed in a responsible beverage industry," the site says. "ABLE BC proactively seeks responsible and workable solutions for both licensees and government in the critical areas.... In addition to receiving ongoing communications with government about liquor-related legislation and changes to regulations, ABLE members enjoy a realm of Industry related benefits," it adds.
Meanwhile, Elections B.C. filings by the B.C. Liberals show that the party received some $150,000 in donations from private liquor interests during the 2005 provincial election
Is this a coincidence? Hardly. NUPGE