Scatterlings: Happy-hour lobbyists should come out from behind the bar, not hide behind "culture" BS
Whenever a new self-described “grassroots” group or association pops up on the media scene here in B.C., backing some venture or campaign supposedly in the public interest, my bullshit alarm goes off.
It’s pretty easy to identify advocacy groups made up of your genuine average citizens, usually people who (although they may have an axe to grind) are uniting behind a common cause for something really worthwhile, like new playground equipment, or to lobby government for action on safer schools, health care, or important environmental issues, for example.
Their websites provide names, contact numbers, links to useful information, etcetera. The one thing they have in common is that there is no shared direct economic interest, no self-serving big payoff if the group is successful in its aims. Often, the reward is simple social justice, lives enriched in ways not primarily concerned with money.
Then there are the phonies, the front groups and greenwashers who typically abuse the word grassroots in describing themselves and their aims. Often the noble word citizens pops up in their names.
Some prominent ones in recent years came out in support of independent run-of-river power projects (“ordinary citizens” concerned about B.C.’s future hydroelectric-power security) and the province's Gateway roads and bridges megaproject (“ordinary citizens” concerned about B.C.’s future port and truck-traffic capabilities).
Typically, when one attempts to trace the websites’ founders, all trails lead to an Arizona-registered company that guarantees anonymity for the sites’ money backers.
If any real names are given, they are usually of “normal” people with no traceable backround or even expertise in the purported cause. Any links connect to favourable articles and letters to the editor that they have managed to get printed in accommodating publications, usually small-town newspapers (or politically aligned mainstream media) after bombarding them with letter-writing campaigns.
The latest to hit B.C. is the so-called Campaign for Culture. This group doesn’t have any people names at all on its website, even under the heading “Who We Are”. It appears to want us to believe that it is made up of ordinary people, “our diverse citizenry”, that will lobby the provincial government to change the “regulatory framework surrounding liquor products in British Columbia”.
Ah. They want to sell booze. More of it, cheaper, in more places, and probably with even more extended selling hours.
That is quite the definition of “culture”. It’s pretty obvious who is behind this latest push, and it is equally obvious that the primary focus is profit—and lots of it.
The campaign, though, hides behind flowery, feel-good phrases such as “enrich the social fabric of B.C.”, “integrate the consumption of alcohol within their respective socio-cultural atmosphere”, and, one of my faves, “create the vibrancy and vitality that makes British Columbia a desirable destination for all”.
It’s first goal is to lobby Victoria to allow “happy hour” cheap-drink specials in pubs. You know, where people hit the bars right after work and try to limit themselves to one drink on an empty stomach while being enticed by two-for-one specials and half-price highballs before they hop in the car to go home--and then get stopped by roadblock cops who test them for their blood's vibrancy and vitality levels.
I’m not going to get into a discussion of the good and bad points of liquor retailing here in B.C. It seems to this observer that most people are in agreement that a little relaxation of some of the more stringent regulations would be a good thing.
The Straight has published more than a few articles on this subject, and the ones regarding the Rio Theatre’s recent fight with the province proved exceedingly popular. A feature on the topic in general by Daniel Wood racked up an astounding number of hits on our website, and continues to do so.
But if you are going to try to win the public over to your side in your tussle with the government, have the balls to call your group by a name that reflects its true intentions.
People can sniff out BS weasel words a mile away. And they would probably respond favourably to an honest presentation of your arguments.
Come on. You want to sell booze: more of it, cheaper, and in more places.
Just say so. And do it responsibly.