This past Friday evening (February 3, 2017), Richard Zussman, provincial affairs reporter for the CBC, tweeted out that Premier Christy Clark was to attend a “no media” event in Port Moody with two of the Premier’s personal photographers in tow. It was immediately apparent from the tweet that some type of event was occurring at Yellow Dog Brewery in Port Moody, part of the wildly successful Brewer’s Row in Port Moody. Subsequent to that tweet, Yellow Dog Brewery acknowledged that they, along with representatives of Moody Ales, Twin Sails Brewery, Parkside Brewery, and the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild had had a discussion with the “BC Government” concerning the “beer industry and issues”. Later that evening the photos started appearing on the BC Government Flickr page. What they show is the local Port Moody incumbent BC Liberals MLA Linda Reimer and Premier Christy Clark participating in what amounts to a partisan political photo-op with Ken Beattie, Executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild and local brewers from Port Moody’s Brewer’s Row being present. Here are the photos from the event.
Now these types of purely political photo-ops are of course par for the course for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals and they unfortunately straddle that fine line between campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime and doing the work of government. Doing the work of government IMHO would have included having ministers/ministerial staff responsible being present at the event (people who handle the actual files) and having media present at the event that could ask questions but neither of those appears to have taken place. Maybe that’s just me though. The pictures tell the story though as this clearly appears to have been a political photo-op in an attempt to raise the profile of the local BC Liberals MLA running in a tight race for re-election in the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam and Christy Clark amongst younger craft beer-loving voters. I guess we should get used to these purely political photo-ops over the next few months especially locally. Unfortunately, there is not enough time now to submit a FOI request to see whether or not any public money was spent on this event so I will have to assume that the BC Liberals party covered all expenses associated with this photo-op.
The photos taken will of course undoubtedly be used and reused ad nauseam in future government/BC Liberal party promotional materials (yes I do consider them one and the same and I defy you to prove any differentiation/distinction otherwise). You gotta feel for the guys from the four local breweries though as sadly, what the pictures amount to unfortunately is a de facto endorsement of the BC Liberals, local incumbent BC Liberal MLA Linda Reimer, and Premier Christy Clark by local brewers and the BC Craft Brewers Guild via their representation/presence at this photo-op event. Poor breweries guys as they likely didn’t even have a clue that they were going to be used by the Premier and the local BC Liberals MLA Linda Reimer for their own personal political purposes, their own political gain, and to further their political agenda. Probably didn’t even see it coming. The BC Liberals got exactly what they wanted though. Something that they could use to try and sell a tragically unhip older candidate and a largely unpopular Premier to a younger 20-something craft beer loving audience. Thankfully the brewers likely won’t have to worry about seeing the Premier and MLA Linda Reimer for a while now. That is unless they want something else from them again.
I can only assume that the recent CATI polling that was conducted in Port Moody on behalf of the BC Liberal party and/or their supporters (I was called BTW) showed that Linda Reimer was polling very badly (particularly amongst millennials within the riding) and what better way to try to reach that demographic than to associate yourself with one of the passions of locals and particularly local millennials: Craft Beer. I do have to wonder if those present at the event honestly did think that the meeting was only to support local businesses and their industry with no ulterior motives at all? Maybe that is how the event was sold to them? Who knows? You gotta wonder though why did Christy Clark and Linda Reimer choose to visit this particular area at this particular time to discuss these particular issues? To be sure, if this meeting/event had occurred a year ago, no one would have even blinked an eye. Not even for a second. However, it is in the context of the upcoming election that all actions of the Premier and her party must now be perceived and interpreted.
Unfortunately, by agreeing (being duped?) into taking part in an obviously politically motivated event so close to an election (that being only ~3 months away), the craft brewery folks present unfortunately (whether they knew what was going on or not and whether intentionally or not) were involved/engaged in a political event/activity (likely under false pretenses as I say). Ultimately the brewery folks are likely the victims in all this as they will now be in the unenviable position of forever being associated with the party of Quick Wins, Health Firings, Triple Delete, fake balanced budgets, massive budget overruns, fake news, Kinder Morgan, education underfunding, alternative facts, failed LNG promises, baseless allegations of illegal wrongdoing, etc., (one would think/hope) likely not at their own volition. I would be pretty upset too if I was them. One wonders how the whole thing was sold to them originally when they were originally contacted by the representatives of the Premier/local MLA (presumably) and whether or not that it actually lived up to that billing. One would hope that if they knew how they were going to be used that they would have passed on the whole event. I wonder what they would do in hindsight? I would imagine that they would probably not be wanting to have their products and brands associated with one particular political party with an election on the immediate horizon that’s for sure. No doubt about that.
Red Truck Brewery and #BoyCottRedTruck
You may remember that this is not the first time that right wing politics/right wing politicians, and craft beer have become intertwined in B.C. and have been the source of a bit of controversy. Keen political observers will remember that Red Truck Brewery was the target of the #BoycottRedTruck movement back in 2015 after Stephen Harper and entourage, et al. breezed into town and hosted an exclusive (no media) invitation-only event at the Red Truck Brewery in East Vancouver (sound familiar?).
The appearance caused some to suggest that by the brewery hosting the event during the run up to the election that this was a de facto endorsement of Stephen Harper and Conservative Party by Red Truck Brewery and this caused a social media backlash.
Red Truck claimed at the time that they only were renting out the space to any and all takers and that the use of their facility was not an endorsement of right wing politics or any right wing politicians in any way. Then interestingly, the BC Liberals also chose to use the same location and utilized Red Truck for the Richmond-Steveston BC Liberals’ June 26, 2016 fundraiser on behalf of John “Quick Wins” Yap, Minister of Selfies, and Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Reform Policy to the Minister of Small Business, Red Tape Reduction and Minister Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch.
I guess it was all a big misunderstanding as the Brewery suggested. In the same way, I have to presume that their $2,000 donation to the BC Liberals in 2016 in the name of the brewery was also a big mistake and misunderstanding and not an endorsement of the BC Liberal party as were the many contributions of the owner of Red Truck to the BC Liberals. Cough.
The Other Infamous Port Moody Photo-op
The whole recent episode at Yellow Dog Brewery may also be seem somewhat familiar to local Tri-Cities political observers as it is also somewhat reminiscent of another time in the recent past when another political leader seeking re-election, breezed into town for an exclusive photo-op similarly far from the prying eyes of the pesky media to do a photo-op promoting a rather lacklustre candidate who only appeared in the background hoping that some charisma would rub off of them (sound and familiar again?)
As such, it seems that the BC Liberals appear to be taking a page directly out of the last Conservative campaign book by staging exclusive politically motivated photo-ops on the taxpayers dime away far from the prying eyes of the media.
It should be noted that the breweries of Brewery Row themselves for the most part appear to have been largely mum on the whole event that took place at Yellow Dog. No mention of the event to date has been made on the Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook accounts of the three breweries involved with only Yellow Dog mentioning the event at all. One has to wonder why? If this was such an important discussion and an important event, why no mention of it/pictures of it? Given the above I would have to think that they are all pretty steamed about the whole thing and it is totally understandable why they would not want to dwell on such a series of unfortunate events.
So was it all worth it? Yellow Dog in response to a query on Facebook made the following statement:
So to sum up: Nothing concrete came of it, they will continue to talk, and the BC Liberals leave with the photos from the photo-op as they originally wanted/intended.
To be fair, as noted previously, I can not emphasize enough how much I have to acknowledge that the local brewers of Brewer’s Row and Ken Beattie of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild may have been totally and completely unaware as to the extent that they were going to be used by Christy Clark, their local MLA Linda Reimer, and the BC Liberals for a photo-op for purely political purposes. As such, I really do think that it would be incumbent on everyone involved to also invite local candidates and the leaders from other political parties to also sit down and discuss the “beer industry and issues” in the same manner as they did with Christy Clark so as to indeed demonstrate that they are/were completely non-partisan and that they didn’t intentionally wish to effectively endorse/be associated exclusively with the BC Liberals in the upcoming election. If they choose not to, then I guess that you can pretty much put them in the same category as Red Truck Brewery. That’s OK if you like to have right wing politics with your beer. That’s your prerogative. But for others, that may leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth.
Edit: I recently came across the standard consent and release from the Provincial Government regarding the use of images. I do wonder if all of the local craft beer folk that were used for propaganda purposes indeed all signed the waiver. If not, they would have every right to have the images removed if any one person in any of the images objected to the use of their image.
Edit: And exactly as predicted, a photo from the Port Moody brewery photo-op is now part of the BC Liberals Campaign Platform materials published on April 11, 2017 (see below). The BC Liberals are nothing if not predictable.