Cabinet shakeup puts Coleman back in charge of liquor laws

Advocates calling for Victoria to liberalize B.C.’s liquor laws must once again deal with Rich Coleman, the man who oversaw those laws for much of the past decade.

Premier Christy Clark handed Minister of Energy and Mines Rich Coleman responsibility for liquor and gaming as part of reshuffle aimed at giving Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond more time to focus on making the province’s justice system more efficient.

This morning, Coleman made his first policy announcement: venues that serve alcohol may now show movies. Vancouver’s Rio Theatre owner Corinne Lea had complained that when her movie theatre obtained a liquor primary licence, she was expressly forbidden from showing films. She remains unable to sell alcohol during shows, however.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon was also given new responsibilities. He will be in charge of the Public Sector Employers Council and the Insurance Corporation of B.C.

Those responsibilities were previously headed by Bond in her role as solicitor general. Clark amalgamated what was left of the Ministry of the Solicitor General into a larger Ministry of the Attorney General.

Coleman first headed the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch and the British Columbia Liquor Control and Licensing Branch in June 2001 when he was appointed solicitor general. He kept those responsibilities after he left the solicitor general post, until Clark shuffled him out of those roles soon after she was sworn in as premier in March 2011.

Bond told Business in Vancouver in October she was open to changing laws to allow caterers to deliver alcohol to clients, which florists are currently allowed to do.

Like Coleman, however, she said she had no plans to change laws so that pub owners could change the price of a drink during the day, thereby allowing so-called “happy hours.”

“Rich has got a lot of experience in that portfolio, so I think he can handle it fairly well,” said Marquis Wine Cellars owner John Clerides, who has urged the streamlining of several quirky liquor restrictions.

“It’s a thankless job. No matter what you do you’re going to have critics.”

Glen Korstrom