A recent UVic study funded by Health Canada has found that most provinces and territories in Canada have poor policies in place to reduce alcohol-related harm to residents, and BC is no exception.

The study – conducted by the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto – gave BC a final grade of a D-, with a percentage of just 50%.

The report cards for each province and territory were measured based on the government’s implementation of policies that reduce the health impacts and economic costs of alcohol use.

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The team of researchers used information from public records, websites, and interviews with government representatives to assess the effectiveness of 11 different policy categories in each province, including:

  • Pricing and Taxation
  • Physical Availability
  • Impaired Driving
  • Marketing/Advertising
  • Minimum Drinking Age
  • Liquor Law Enforcement
  • Type of Alcohol Control System
  • Health/Safety Messaging
  • Screening, Brief Intervention/Referral
  • Alcohol Strategy
  • Monitoring and Reporting

BC scored its highest marks in the Monitoring and Reporting category, earning an A+. The grade refers to the province’s funding of tracking systems that collect data on alcohol consumption and harm indicators in its communities.

On the flip side, the province received 5 failing grades, with the lowest in Pricing and Taxation. The report calls for several dramatic changes to liquor pricing in the province, including annual updates on alcohol prices to reflect inflation rates and eliminate price discounts for large volume items like pitchers of beer.

“There are serious risks to our public health and safety from the new tendency to treat alcohol as an ordinary commodity like milk or orange juice,” says the project lead and CISUR director Dr. Tim Stockwell.

“Our report offers all Canadian governments specific advice on how to maintain convenient access to a popular recreational substance while minimizing related harms.”

Canada fails across the board

While BC barely scored a passing grade with 50%, it still ranked second out of all of Canada’s 10 provinces and 3 territories.

The highest ranked jurisdiction, Ontario, scored a total of 55%, while Northwest Territories scored the lowest with a failing grade of 33%.

The report recommends a number of actions that the provincial government could implement to reduce alcohol-related harms.

Two of the highlighted recommendations include changing the cultural treatment of alcohol and establishing a more aggressive educational campaign about the dangers of drinking.

“[BC should] Reconsider the treatment of alcohol as an ordinary commodity; alcohol should not be sold alongside food and other grocery items as this leads to greater consumption and related harm,” reads the report.

“[The province should] Inform the public about the risks of alcohol, including the comparative risks of alcohol and other substances, to create a more supportive climate for enacting effective policies. This can be achieved with initiatives such as mandatory warning labels on all alcohol containers and clear and consistent public health messaging on a range of health topics.”

All 13 report cards for each province and territory in Canada can be found online here.