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A toast to BC Ferries - and MADD

BC Ferries will soon offer beer and wine – like most other ferry service operators – and will almost certainly be responsible about it.
Howard Sandler /

When reading the Orca exclusive last week, the scoop about some BC Ferries routes offering BC beer and wine on select sailings starting June 1st, my first reaction was, “it’s about time!”

There are many who think this is a bad idea, a slippery slope. They draw a direct line from the availability of alcohol to drunk drivers. Certainly, drunk drivers cannot get drunk without booze; but why are responsible drinkers punished by bad actions of the few?

Responsible adults do not drink and drive. Those who do are, in my view, doing it regardless of who sells them the booze.

The concerns over ferries lead me to wonder about all the other places beer and wine flow freely, without judgement. Places people buy beer, wine, or spirits and then flock to packed parking lots.

Airplanes. Sporting Events. Concerts. Conventions. Restaurants.

This list is endless…leaving me puzzled as to why BC Ferries serving beer and wine is such a flashpoint?

The internal memo that sparked the discussion states that in BC Ferries research — a passenger survey from 2018 — around 50% of travellers responded positively to the question of whether having beer and wine available on board would improve their experience.

So around 50% don’t. Let those who want beer and wine have it and those who don’t can simply choose to not.

That memo also states how BC Ferries is “one of the few ferry operators not offering liquor with food services on major routes”. It might surprise many naysayers that beer and wine has long been offered on BC Ferries’ northern routes.

Washington State Ferries have long sold booze onboard. In fact, go just about anywhere in the world and the reigns loosen up significantly — shockingly those societies are not mired in spiked alcoholism and DUI deaths at increased numbers. The restrictions surrounding beer and wine in Canada are rather…dated.

The Middle is: rather than police the purchase, police those who break drunk driving laws. Typically, those who are doing the latter regardless of safeguards.

It is timely to think that we could grow up a bit as a society, and have the expectation that we will drink responsibly.

After The Orca’s scoop, there was immediate reaction.

Political journalists were quick to point out: “we’ve seen this before, it won’t float” or “this will be walked back”.

Those same journos (I’m looking at you @keithbaldrey, @richardzussman and @MikeSmythNews) were bang on when predicting there would be immediate concern from highly-respected impaired driving watchdog Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

MADD’s Tracy Crawford was quoted all over the media speaking to “concerns” and the need “to see more details about the project.”

So far, the rules are clear and rather strict.

Customers will only be able to imbibe while eating at the Pacific Buffet (a place most passengers have never been) on the Spirit of Vancouver Island, Spirit of British Columbia and Coastal Celebration. Beer and wine purchases will be limited to a max of two per person, and only purchased with their full buffet meal.

The concerns are valid surrounding those who do not regulate their alcohol intake: “how to manage overconsumption” and how to “stop passengers from getting into their cars” if they’ve consumed.

Tracy made great points around BC Ferries staff needing to be trained properly – the same as flight attendants, bartenders, and servers at all events.

In any situation involving alcohol, businesses must be responsible in ensuring booze is only served to those of legal age, and that staff is properly trained to recognize inebriation. There’s no reason to suspect BC Ferries will be any less vigilant than other licensed businesses.

With or without beer and wine sold at the buffet, passengers must be responsible for their sobriety when getting behind the wheel, period.

It is naive to assume that passengers haven’t always travelled the crossing with a stash of beverages in fully-stocked coolers. I have. However, when I partake, I make sure to be riding shotgun in the vehicle, not the driver’s seat.

This is not rocket science.

If there is a battle to be fought by MADD, in my Middle, it is the need for reliable options to get to and from public places, spaces and transportation such as BC Ferries. We need ride sharing.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.