Coderre's right, QLB's wrong

Par Beryl Wajsman le 19 juin 2014

It's as simple as that. On multiple levels.

The Quebec Liquor Board has rejected a pilot project by the City of Montreal to extend bar hours until 6 a.m. It said the pilot project was   "likely to disturb public tranquility." The Agency further stated that, "A project such as this merits taking the time to reflect and to document its feasibility in light of similar experiences elsewhere in the world." 

The QLB position makes no sense. If the QLB wants documentation on "feasibility" that is exactly what Mayor Coderre had in mind. That is why it is called a "pilot project." The project is modeled on others in the west. It would affect only 19 bars on two streets, Crescent and St-Denis. How else can a society determine "feasibility" if a test is not done, regardless of anyone's position on drinking.

But there is a more troubling aspect to the QLB's role in this. An agency of bureaucrats should not decide our morals. In fact the state should stay out of that area entirely. But if any one element of government has a say, it should be our elected officials. The Mayor and his executive can determine quite well the state of "public tranquility." And to find the reasonable balances. It is they after all who have the mandate from the people and are held to account at the ballot box. 

Bars have last call at 3 a.m. right now. It is not such a drastic extension. As Mayor Coderre rightly said, "Listen, we are a metropolis. If it's good for Berlin and Sydney, Australia, I don't see why we can't do that." He called the QLB decision a missed opportunity.Montreal police and alcohol awareness group Educ'alcool agreed with the plan because it may solve middle of the night security problems.

The Liquor Board should stick to verifying background checks, issuing permits and assuring compliance with occupancy permits. Prohibition is an outdated concept that has never worked. The bureacrats at the QLB, and other agencies, should heed the words of British writer Samuel Butler who famously quipped, "The proper role of vice is to keep virtue within reasonable bounds." Here in Quebec we can paraphrase that and say the proper role of bureaucrats is to help elected officials whom the people will keep within reasonable bounds."


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