Is Victoria Dry?

October 20th, 2013 by Martin Vernon

How dry is Victoria today? Many of our bed and breakfast guests are intrigued about the weather here – often asking how much snow falls in Victoria, or is it very wet. We are having an unusually dry 2013 but there’s another aspect to Victoria being dry: prohibition.

The weather in Victoria

It is now the second half of October, a period when Victoria BC typically expects to experience cool mornings then warm afternoons with occasional rain showers. It can be very pleasant, and October 2013 has been gorgeously warm and sunny with no rain forecast for the rest of the month (so get here quickly).

Victoria’s location on the coast, west of the mountains, Vancouver Island climatic zonesresults in much of the rain not falling until clouds reach the mountains … over Vancouver. So our rainfall is about half of Vancouver. Even there, July 2013 set a record with no rain falling at Vancouver Airport. Visitors will be encouraged to know that our summers are mostly dry with pleasant temperatures for sight-seeing – just hot enough not to need air conditioning and, unlike so many cities, Victoria is practically mosquito-free. Winter months will bring one or two light snowfalls, with none at all last winter. (Victoria is in the far south east, bottom right, of the map.)

Victoria’s setting on southern Vancouver Island esults in a remarkable number of micro-climates, perhaps over twenty of them. These are discovered as you suddenly encounter quite different conditions. In winter, this is particularly noticeable when some areas have frost or light snow and others none. In summer, the hills and valleys result in changing growing conditions – one farmer in Metchosin even grows bananas.

Canada measures temperatures in Celcius. Use this formula to convert to Fahrenheit: C x 9/5 + 32 = F, eg 20C = 68F.

Prohibition in Victoria

In 1916 the citizens of Bristish Columbia were asked to vote on two questions:
– should women be given the right to vote,
– should alcohol be prohibited.
Both received approval and took effect in 1917. Victoria became dry!

Prohibition in British Columbia was thus authorised by the men, not the women, and remained in force until 1921 when it was repealed after a widespread black market and corruption became established. Rules were bent so that you could order “near beer” or even obtain alcohol on prescription.

In fact Canada should have been dry after 1898 when a national referendum voted in favour of prohibition but the Canadian government declined to make it law since Quebec strongly objected (sound familiar?). So the provinces took the law into their own hands. Bars had been open 24/7 if they wished and law and order issues resulted. So pressure grew and the pendulum began to swing from one extreme to the other (never a healthy matter). By the end of World War One every province except Quebec was theoretically dry.

After the repeal of prohibition in 1921 BC was wet in more senses than one: drinking was boring – you could have a glass if you were seated, with no food, music, games or entertainment.

Today, if you wish, you can enjoy wines from our thriving vineyards or beersĀ  from our micro-breweries in delightful settings. Enjoy them to the full so long as you do not drive.

It’s a joy to live somewhere that’s both dry and wet!


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