The ongoing changes to British Columbia’s liquor laws are continuing with the introduction in the Legislature of Bill 27 – the “Liquor Control and Licensing Act” – which if passed will replace the current statute of the same name.
The full impact of the new legislation on local governments remains to be seen, as some of the Bill’s effects on local governments will be contained in regulations that are enacted pursuant to the Bill once it comes into force. The Bill contains similar provisions to the current Act regarding local government recommendations and comments on applications for prescribed types of liquor licences. This framework is contained in section 38 and 39 of the Bill. Similar to the current Act, the type of licences for which local governments can provide comments and recommendations, and the criteria that local governments must consider when providing comments and recommendations, will be contained in the regulations that are enacted pursuant to the new Act.
While the basic framework remains largely the same, there are some differences of note. Perhaps the biggest difference for local governments is the ability in section 40 of the Bill to delegate the power to recommend and comment on applications. The section states that local governments can delegate this power despite the restrictions on the delegation of the power or duty to make recommendations contained in the Community Charter and the Local Government Act.
Section 40 of the Bill also states that if a local government delegates the power to recommend and comment on applications, then the local government will also have to provide applicants with a right to have the recommendations and comments reconsidered by the local government’s council or board.
Another difference between the current Act and Bill 27 is the absence in the Bill of the prohibition contained in section 11.1(5) of the current Act. This section states that an applicant for a licence must not obtain or attempt to obtain the comments or recommendations of the local government until the general manager of licensing has received the person’s completed application and has given notice to the local government of the application.
The prohibition was likely not carried over into the Bill in order to reduce the amount of time it takes for applicants to obtain approval for their applications. According to the recent “B.C. Liquor Policy Review: Final Report”, one of the concerns raised by applicants with the current system is the “linear” manner in which applications are processed. An applicant cannot attempt to obtain comments and recommendations from a local government until its overall licence application is otherwise completed. According to the Report, this means that applicants have to wait a great deal of time before finding out if their application will be successful. It seems as though the new Act and regulations will change this procedure in some way and allow for an applicant to attempt to obtain a local government’s comments and recommendations before the general manager of licensing receives its completed application. Exactly how this process will occur will not be clear until the regulations are made available.