Not so long ago, Suzanne Anton was the NPA candidate defeated in a bid to prevent the re-election of Gregor Robertson as Vancouver mayor. Then she fell short in a bid to win the B.C. Liberal nomination in Vancouver-Quilchena ahead of last May’s provincial election, a campaign the Liberals were expected to lose. But fortunes change. The former Crown prosecutor ran again for a nomination, this time in Vancouver-Fraserview, and this time she won. Then, somewhat unexpectedly, she was tapped by Premier Christy Clark to be justice minister and attorney-general.
Ms. Anton has had a full plate of issues since then, including court reform. But one issue looming in 2014 is the reform of the province’s alcohol and liquor policy, particularly since parliamentary secretary John Yap has delivered a report recommending specific changes, and Ms. Clark has made it a high priority.
Mr. Yap has submitted his report. Is there any room left for public consultation on liquor-reform policy before further changes or legislation are announced?
The extent of further public consultation remains to be seen. Mr. Yap put a number of recommendations in his report, which will be going to cabinet. Each one of the themes in his report will take more policy development work and some of that will necessarily involve more consultation with our stakeholders.
So stakeholders such as the private liquor stores, who clearly have had a lot to say about this, will get another chance to talk to the government before legislation is enacted or policy is run through?
I don’t want to define what that looks like at the moment, because we’re really just crunching through the preliminary parts of looking at his report and considering how we move the different pieces of it forward.
Is the government inclined to bring in a big bill that redefines liquor and alcohol for B.C., or to do this with a number of smaller changes?
We’ll be considering all the different options, but I think it’s safe to say that each piece of it, how liquor is sold, how it’s distributed, how people consume it – each one of those pieces will be treated somewhat separately but as a part of the bigger whole, obviously. How that unfolds in terms of legislation and regulation remains to be seen. But I am not going to be ragging the puck on this one.
Do you expect you will get through this by this time next year, or are you hoping to move more quickly?
We will be looking at short-term actions we can take and some of the things will take more time. I’ll give you a recent example. Some of the items that came up over the last couple of years – liquor in movie theatres, liquor options. Those are two that we have already dealt with. But each of those required a certain amount of work.
If you aren’t increasing the number of outlets, do you expect private sellers to move into grocery stores?
Those will be business decisions that people make.
You were a defeated mayoral candidate in Vancouver and you’re now one of B.C.’s most powerful cabinet ministers. What is the life lesson in this?
The life lesson is just keep moving forward. Making the decision to run for mayor was a tough one, but it was an interesting competition. Having not won that, the provincial election came along and it was a real opportunity to just keep doing what I loved to do, which was to stay in politics. If you’re in a room of politicians and ask them if they have won or lost, most people will put up their hands for both. Politics has its successes. It has its things that are not successes, but they can still be very positive. I feel that all of the things that I did over the last year were positive, and they ended up in just a fantastic place.