Two weeks ago if you had told me I would be sitting here banging out a message as the president of CAMRA BC I would have told you that you were crazy.
I had my exit planned from the president’s seat from the Powell River branch and was fully expecting to ride off into the sunset, having put in my time for the society in an official capacity.
But on Feb 10th, with just hours left until the close of the nomination period for the BC Executive elections, there was not one nomination for the four seats up for grabs.
I was loathe to see years of blood sweat and tears by those who worked tirelessly to found and guide CAMRA BC, in years gone by, potentially go down the drain and was not going to sit by and watch the society dissolve before my eyes.
That may sound dramatic, but, quite seriously, it could have come to that with no one at the helm to steer the society and look after the finances.
After a flurry of e-mails and texts, former branch presidents Martin Williams (Vancouver, 2009-2010) and Glen Stusek (Victoria, 2004-2017) and myself (Vancouver, 2011-2013, Powell River, 2013-2017) decided to give one more year of executive service to CAMRA BC.
Still short a treasurer, we were uncertain as to what to do, but Glen contacted one of the Victoria members, Dave Garton, who has a strong passion for craft beer and a more than solid financial background, and the 2017 CAMRA BC Executive was born.
It was not an easy decision for all of us, as Glen, like me, had thought he had made the great escape after 13 years as the Victoria president and Martin had been out of a CAMRA executive seat for over five years.
And Dave, poor Dave, has no idea what he is in for but is up for the challenge.
With over 20 years of presidential experience at the branch level, this 2017 executive is very connected to the history and roots of CAMRA yet forward looking and willing to think outside the box. This executive is well balanced. Martin and I are strong in the advocacy department, with me being more of the bulldog and Martin more cerebral in his approach but equally as fierce. Glen is extremely detail oriented, and offers a very sober-second-thought perspective on things and balances my more bombastic style by being a man of few words. But when Glen speaks, he is almost always on point and I always listen.
Actually, same goes for Martin. When he speaks, I listen.
I know from my perspective, having Martin and Glen as support was the sole reason I stepped the president’s role.
I have high hopes that we can provide strong leadership and focus in order to guide the society back to its purpose of being a consumer advocacy group. We need to strive to fulfill our mandate of championing the cause of the craft beer consumer in BC. I feel over the past few years CAMRA BC has drifted back towards being more of a craft beer social club, that exists to organize events and offer discounts, than a consumer advocacy group, this despite the fact there are a handful of very enthusiastic advocates doing their best at the local level. They need support and they need it from the provincial branch, the branch elected to oversee CAMRA BC.
Although discounts and events have a place in the CAMRA experience, they should never be the main focus of the society and members need to know that when they join, they are joining the cause of supporting the rights of craft beer consumers in BC. The discounts should not even be the second priority as supporting craft beer education and homebrewing also rank ahead in my opinion.
From my perspective, the main drift away from advocacy is the fear of offending those offering CAMRA discounts and the fact that many members, when they join CAMRA BC at the branch level, do not really understand what CAMRA BC is about or why the society was founded.
When advocating on behalf of the consumer, CAMRA BC, at times, will bump heads with the craft beer and hospitality industries, which can result in friction and yes, discontinued discounts at some establishments. At times our advocacy will bring us closer to these same people when we have common goals.
But what has to be remembered is that what is good for the craft beer and hospitality industries is not always good for the consumer.
Think about the tight reign of control on where growlers can be filled (tasting rooms only) and serving size issues. What benefits us, as consumers, is not what benefits those above mentioned industries.
The second reason for the shift away from CAMRA BC’s main purpose is general membership apathy. We only have to look at the lack of nominations for the BC Executive elections and the fact that only about 25 members bothered to show up at the BC AGM, Feb 19th, even though it was purposely held in the Lower Mainland at Yellow Dog Brewery, right next to the Skytrain system, with hopes that there would be a good turonout from the 1000+ members living in the vicinity. It was simply pathetic and disappointing turnout and a sure sign that there is significant member disengagement towards what the society is all about.
It will be a bit of a balancing act, shifting focus from good times and discounts while trying to increase member engagement but we will do what we can with the resources we have. We have to get CAMRA BC back into the spotlight, attract members who understand what CAMRA is about and who are willing to support campaigns and their local and provincial executives.
It is a tall order, but we, as the 2017 CAMRA BC Executive are dedicated to give it a go. It is my hope that your new executive will be one that is remembered for the right reasons and one who shed light on just what the provincial executive is supposed to do and gives focus to the society as a whole while allowing the local branches to operate independently within the framework established by CAMRA BC.
If any members have any questions, I can be reached at email@example.com.
President of the Campaign for Real Ale Society of British Columbia