BC Liquor Law

The “new” Liquor Control and Licensing Act Laws

Government Bill 27, what will become the “new” Liquor Control and Licensing Act has been available online for almost a month now, and while the language that appears in Bill 27 will probably become law without significant revision, it is important for industry stakeholders to understand that process. Though much of the criticism and confusion surrounding the implementation of last year’s Final Report is well placed, some of it stems from the public’s lack of understanding of the legislative process. If you have serious concerns about liquor law reform in this province, now is the time to contact your MLA and engage in the political process.

In case you have forgotten that classic Schoolhouse Rock video from your childhood, a bill is a proposed law (piece of legislation) that has been introduced in the legislative assembly by an elected member. Typically the MLA (or MP in the federal context) is the government Minister who will ultimately be responsible for the subject matter of the bill if it is passed and becomes an act. For instance Bill 27 was introduced by the Minister of Justice, the Honourable Suzanne Anton. Bills that relate to public policy, like Bill 27, are appropriately called “public bills” or “government bills”. For the 2015 legislative session in Victoria the legislature website identifies 27 such government bills. A member of an opposition party, or a government backbencher is also entitled to introduce a bill to the assembly, however without government support these bills are rarely passed into law and those that do often address niche issues and causes.

After being introduced to the legislative assembly and briefly explained (the 1st reading) the bill is later subjected to a general debate by the assembly as a whole (the 2nd reading). Assuming the bill passes the 2nd reading, it moves on to the committee stage where the bill is examined in even greater detail than the 2nd reading, and amendments are introduced. The “committee” can be comprised of the entire legislative assembly, or a select group of MLAs depending on the nature of the bill. At the 3rd reading the bill, along with any amendments made in committee, is voted on again. The bill that passes 3rd reading is the final form of the bill that will receive royal assent by the Lieutenant Governor and then become law as an act.

Acts typically contain provisions that allow for the government (the cabinet) to draft and implement “subordinate legislation” in the form of regulations. Unlike the act itself, regulations do not need to be approved by the legislative assembly as a whole, instead the cabinet can create and amend regulations as it deems necessary. Whereas the essential points of law need to be codified in the act, the details of how those broad legal concepts will be applied are often contained in the regulations.

For example, the Liquor Control and Licensing Act allows for the general manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to issue a licence for the sale of liquor. But If you wanted to know more about the different types of licences, and the rights and restrictions of each type of licence you would need to look in the Regulation.

Assuming Bill 27 is passed (and with a majority government that is assured) the executive has said it will consult with licensees, local government and police toward the development of regulations that will bring the new Act into force and provide details on how the new Act will be interpreted, applied and enforced. Like under the existing Liquor Control and Licensing Act the new Regulation is where the real mechanisms of the new Act will be kept. Liquor industry stakeholders should pay close attention to details of the new Regulation as they emerge. Until the new Act can be read in concert with the new Regulation it is too early to tell how significant the effect of the new Act will be on stakeholders.

You can track the progress of Bill 27 here.

*Alcohol & Advocacy publishes articles for information purposes only. They are not a substitute for legal advice, and persons requiring such advice should consult legal counsel.

Dan Coles
Retired bartender. Young lawyer. From the East, living in the West. Interested in British Columbia's producers and purveyors of wine, beer and spirits.

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Liquor Law 101: The Administrative Regime - Alcohol and Advocacy - August 19, 2015

[…] provides readers with an “insiders” look at how the liquor laws in British Columbia are written, interpreted, and applied. At A&A we often write about the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch […]

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