Saturday, March 23, 2019

Tex Enemark remembered

                                                     Photo: Tex Enemark

Wine drinkers in British Columbia owe a great deal to Tex Enemark, the energetic civil service and public policy advocate who died March 12 at the age of 78.

He was a Renaissance man who packed many careers in one remarkable and eventful life, ranging from politics, public service to presidency of the Mining Association of British Columbia and – he was an avid diver – to founding the Artificial Reef Society.

I once worked in the same office when he was, briefly, selling advertisements for a publishing firm. He was one of the most engaging conversationalists I ever knew.

He once shared a terrific anecdote from his time in Ottawa. In 1967 the federal government was on the verge of signing an agreement with France that Canadian wineries would stop calling sparkling wine Champagne. The French had been litigating with the wineries for at least a decade to secure protection for the most prestigious name in French wine.

Then President Charles de Gaulle visited and enraged Ottawa with his famous “Vivre Le Québec Libre” comment during a speech in Montreal. An invitation that De Gaulle also visit Ottawa was withdrawn.

Ottawa also looked at other ways to underline its displeasure. At the suggestion of a cabinet minister from the Niagara Peninsula, Ottawa reneged on shutting down “Canadian Champagne”. It was many decades later that Ottawa finally agreed that Canadian wineries would no longer use Champagne or any other European appellation terms on the labels.

In appreciation of Tex, here is the essay I wrote on him in my 1996 book, British Columbia Wine Companion.

Enemark, Tex C. (1940-2019): Appointed deputy minister of  Corporate and Consumer Affairs on January 1, 1977, Enemark was the gunslinger for Rafe Mair, his minister, in accelerating the overhaul of liquor regulation in British Columbia that had begun three years earlier under the previous administration. A native of Prince George and a law school graduate, Enemark's enthusiasm for Liberal politics took him to Ottawa as an executive assistant to Ron Basford, then the senior British Columbia cabinet minister there. Enemark subsequently had become a partner in a government relations firm in Ottawa when Mair lured him back to the west coast in November 1976. The ministry, created by the previous New Democratic government,  had been enlarged to include, among other duties, responsibility for the retailing and regulation of beverage alcohol which previously (and subsequently) resided with the Attorney-General. Putting liquor under Consumer Affairs heralded a more open and  commercial attitude for what was a highly controlled product.

An activist who seldom runs out of ideas, Enemark once sent 2,500 "Smile" buttons to the general manager of the Liquor Distribution Branch, asking: "Will you please see to it that employees in the LDB who are in contact with the public are supplied with a button?" Most of his initiatives had more substance. Immediately after becoming deputy minister, he proposed a $2 million "major program to  try to change drinking habits." The other senior bureaucrats showed little enthusiasm. In a series of  angry memos to them in March 1978, Enemark groused bitterly that "the inter-departmental campaign on liquor moderation appears to be now definitely down the drain." The Liquor Moderation Campaign, as it was called, finally began in late 1978, with an initial $1 million budget derived from a five-cent-a-bottle surcharge on LDB sales. The program lasted only five months, lapsing after Mair and Enemark moved to other assignments in government. The surcharge, however, lasted for several years before it was killed. Other Enemark  ideas fared better. The LDB's antiquated administration was updated by the installation of $2 million worth of computer equipment -- although it took Enemark a year to sell this idea through the bureaucracy.

One contentious Enemark initiative was his proposal that the private sector, not the LDB, provide the major warehousing in Vancouver for imported wines and spirits. Because the LDB had so increased its product offerings, it urgently needed a new warehouse. "We are ... in this situation," Enemark wrote to Mair in March 1978, "because of many years of neglect." Consultants Urwick Currie had told the government that the LDB warehouse was inadequate to accommodate inventories then averaging 275,000 cases a month. In the succeeding four years the LDB inventories had doubled. The alternative to leasing or building new space was to have wine and spirit companies find their own warehousing for any additional products they intended to stock. Some of the agents for imported products complained until Enemark told them that agents not participating in what was called the agent stocking program would receive no new listings from the LDB.  Although Enemark was transferred to become deputy minister of deregulation, the Agent Stocking Program was implemented by the end of 1979. 

It was also in Enemark's time in the ministry that the government finally countered the succession of brewery strikes that had occurred in the 1970s. When another one was called in the summer of 1978, the LDB branch invited American brewers to ship beer to British Columbia. In June and July that year the LDB received almost two million cases of American beer or ten times what it had imported the year before. This summer enabled the American brewers to gain a   foothold in British Columbia. That strike also increased wine consumption sharply and Calona Wines -- which already was coping with the runaway success of Schloss Laderheim -- sought permission to import 25,000 gallons of  wine in bulk, rather than grapes or concentrates, from the United States. Enemark not only agreed, he extended the privilege to the other commercial wineries, provided that the imported wine comprised twenty per cent of volume of wine made from British Columbia grapes, the formula already in place for grape imports. As it happened, Calona imported 118,022 gallons of wine from California in the twelve months to  September 1978.

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