In the Constituency
B.C. Liberal liquor policies make life harder for B.C. charities
October 24, 2012
VICTORIA – While charities across B.C. are struggling to make ends meet, the B.C. Liberals government's revised provincial liquor policies are throwing up another roadblock, say the New Democrats.
“Hundreds of schools, hospitals, theatres and arts organizations across B.C. use auctions of donated wine to help raise funds,” said Spencer Chandra Herbert, New Democrat critic for arts and culture.
“Now the Liberal government is telling these groups they will have to cancel these fundraisers because of a minor liquor policy change. This will have damaging consequences for charities across the province.”
The Belfry Theatre in Victoria, which has successfully applied for a license for the event the past two years, was told two weeks before their auction was scheduled to take place that they would need to cancel it due to changes aimed at bringing charities into line with other licence holders.
The Belfry expected to raise $20,000 from the auction this year.
“After the Liberal government made the deepest cuts to arts in B.C. history, and cuts to gaming grants that impacted hundreds of other charities, the need for fundraising increased dramatically,” said Chandra Herbert.
“But instead of supporting charities’ attempts to raise money, the Liberal government is now making it harder."
Maurine Karagianis, New Democrat liquor policy critic, noted that chaos within the Liquor Distribution Branch is nothing new for the Liberals.
“From the failed privatization scheme, to these changes preventing charities from raising the money they so badly need, it’s clear that the Liberal government is mismanaging the LDB,” said Karagianis.
Adrian Dix and B.C.’s New Democrats believe that the creative economy is vital for our future, and are committed to working with the community to ensure its success.
B.C. liquor policies crush Belfry Theatre fundraiser
Revised provincial liquor policies have forced the Belfry Theatre to cancel its annual wine auction, a move that could have devastating consequences for other charities in B.C.
For the past two years, Belfry organizers have successfully applied for a special occasion licence to put on Crush, a wine auction that was expected to raise $20,000 this year for the theatre company, which is a registered charity.
Bottles of rare and hard-to-find wine are donated from private collections for the event, said general manager Ivan Habel, adding the Belfry openly solicits for wine donations on its website.
But on Oct. 19, the Belfry received a letter from the liquor control and licensing branch (LCLB) stating current regulations prohibit the auctioning of wine unless it is directly purchased through a B.C. liquor store or donated by a liquor manufacturer.
"The province says they didn't know that's what we were doing," Habel said. "And it doesn't matter that we've done it in the past or that literally hundreds of other charities do similar kinds of things. It's against the regulations, period."
Mark Hicken, a lawyer who specializes in B.C. wine law, said the LCLB updated its special occasion licence manual in June to bring charities into line with other licence holders, thus making charity wine auctions illegal.
"There's a difference between policy and law. A policy manual is just their interpretation of what they think the law says," Hicken said.
"I don't agree with, first, the interpretation of the law, and second, from a policy perspective, it doesn't make any sense to me at all," he said, adding there are hundreds of schools, hospitals, theatres and arts organizations across the province who rely on fundraising wine auctions.
By cutting off that revenue stream, charities will end up relying more heavily on provincial funding to make up the financial losses, Hicken said. "I'm a bit perplexed by it all," he said.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the agency responsible for liquor distribution, said the restrictions help "ensure product authenticity and quality and that the appropriate taxes have been paid," but denied any policy changes have taken place beyond standard "housekeeping."
"This law has been in place for many years," said the spokesperson, who asked not to be named. "Changing this rule may require a change in legislation and we’ve asked legal counsel to investigate options."
NDP culture and arts critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said the impact on charities and arts groups like the Belfry will be "massive."
"The Liberals have been saying, 'Arts groups have to do better raising money themselves,'" Chandra Herbert said. "Well, here's an example where they do that very successfully and the government's taking that away from them."
The Big Sisters of the Lower Mainland pulled in $80,000 this year through its annual Grape Juice Wine Auction, said executive director Justine Greene.
"This is one way we've been able to initiate our own element of fundraising, and then it gets clawed back even further," she said of the possibility of canceling the event.
"It's a lot of revenue at stake, I can't even stomach the concept of (losing) it."
The Belfry's manager plans to lobby the provincial government to make an exception for charities and allow wine auctions to continue.
Habel has spoken with local MLAs and hopes to secure a meeting with ministers Rich Coleman and Bill Bennett in the coming weeks.
If no solution can be found, Habel said the Belfry will be forced to cope by doing what so many other non-profit groups and charities have done in recent years: "Nickel and dime the expenses away."
BC will now fund penis-construction surgery for a limited number of transgender men annually under the province’s Medical Services Plan (MSP).
BC’s decision to cover the phalloplasty procedure, which involves taking a graft of tissue from a donor site and extending the urethra, was announced at the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH) conference in Winnipeg last month.
The province had previously refused to cover phalloplasties, citing a lack of information regarding safety and patient satisfaction, though it began covering other procedures for trans men, such as hysterectomies and mastectomies, several years ago.
“Past research had shown that the success rate was not great,” says Ministry of Health spokesperson Ryan Jabs. “As a result of the most recent review by the ministry, the ministry has decided that MSP will cover a limited number of phalloplasties.”
The procedure is already funded in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.
According to Jabs, the BC Ministry of Health conducted three procedure reviews for phalloplasty in the last eight years, based on data collected through literature and peer research from surgical centres in Belgium, France, Germany and Korea.
"Not every female to male trans needs it, but for the ones that identify as male, it's the same as us wanting both of our ears and all of our digits," says Lukas Walther. (James Loewen photo)
“The Ministry of Health is committed to ensuring that British Columbians have access to any and all medically necessary procedures and treatments, while ensuring our system is cost-effective and sustainable,” Jabs says. “Gender reassignment surgery is deemed medically necessary by the fact that gender identity disorder (GID) is listed as a recognized medical condition. Reassignment surgery is considered to be one of the accepted standards of care for GID.”
BC will now fund five people per year for the next five years.
Jabs says the five-year deadline is only a guideline and could be extended.
Although phalloplasty is now MSP-funded, trans men still have to qualify for the procedure and pay their own travel and accommodation costs to reach the Brassard plastic surgery clinic in Montreal where the procedure is performed.
“We cover the full cost of the procedure, but transportation and accommodation for medical services is not insured by the Canada Health Act and is the responsibility of each individual,” Jabs says.
“However, there are programs and companies that may provide assistance with travel costs, such as Hope Air, and we encourage people to contact these companies,” he adds. “In addition, the Ministry of Social Development may also cover medical transportation costs for clients who are receiving social assistance.”
In order to qualify for the surgery, trans men have to produce a letter signed by two designated assessors diagnosing them with persistent, documented gender dysphoria; live for 12 continuous months in the gender role that is congruent with their gender identity; and complete one year of continuous hormone therapy, if needed.
Marie Little, chair of the Trans Alliance Society, says the new funding shows the government is starting to take trans issues seriously, but the number of people funded annually is too small.
“Five is a ridiculously small number, and I have yet to hear how they are going to choose the five. Is it first-come, first-serve?” she asks.
Jabs says the order of procedures will be determined by the waiting list and doctor referrals. “We’ve been keeping the list as part of our review for a number of years,” he says. “It’s based on when we received a referral from a physician for this procedure, and [the procedure] will be provided to those who are at the top of the list based on when the physician referral came in.”
There are two dozen people on the list now, he says.
Little doesn’t buy it. She suspects the list is much longer and says it will continue to grow now that BC has decided to fund the surgery.
Still, Little calls the decision a “breakthrough.”
Spencer Chandra Herbert agrees.
“I certainly think we’ve made progress,” says the gay MLA for Vancouver-West End.
“If we care about equality and we care that trans men have choice in their healthcare, then it’s an important thing today,” he tells Xtra.
“The change isn’t going to affect a massive number of British Columbians, but for those that it does, it is very important,” he adds. “It shows that the health system is starting to recognize who trans folks are and the diversity of their health needs — it’s a win.”
Chandra Herbert says he has been pushing the province to consider funding the procedure but was always told the procedure was “too experimental” to be covered through MSP.
Lukas Walther, former coordinator of Vancouver Coastal Health’s Transgender Health Program, says he too has lobbied the government for phalloplasty funding because it “saves lives.”
“This [procedure] is about completion,” says Walther, who is trans. “Not every female to male trans needs it, but for the ones that identify as male, it’s the same as us wanting both of our ears and all of our digits. We need that piece to feel complete.”
Walther underwent phalloplasty in 2003 and paid for the $20,000 procedure, which he had done in Alberta, out of his own pocket.
“It was about me feeling complete,” he says. “It was about me feeling the body congruent, finally.”
Jabs says the BC Ministry of Health will begin contacting individuals on the waiting list immediately.
I am so pleased that the Vancouver Rent - a vital tool to keep low-income Vancouverites in their homes and prevent unnecessary homelessness is up and running.
I helped to found our new Vancouver Rent Bank after a senior in my neighbourhood lost her home through no fault of her own, and ended up sleeping in her van on the streets of Vancouver.
The Rent Bank will provide interest free loans for people in danger of eviction and will target those people who regularly pay their rent but because of unforeseen circumstances are temporarily unable to make their rent or utility payments.
Thanks to the support of the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Foundation, Street to Home Foundation, the Network of Inner City Service Societies and others - this service will help individuals and families across our city stay in their homes.
For more information about the program click here
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