January 21 2023
The SGEU members fighting to stop the liquor stores from closing are sticking up for everyone in Saskatchewan.
In November, the Saskatchewan government announced plans to close all publicly owned liquor stores in the province. This was bad news for everyone in Saskatchewan.
Liquor stores are profitable businesses. When they are publicly owned, the profits they generate go to support important services like health care and education.
Privatizing liquor stores would mean those profits going into private hands. The loss of these revenues will mean that Saskatchewan residents will see the services they rely on cut. And they will likely pay higher prices at the liquor store.
This is what happened in Alberta. While Alberta has some of the highest prices in Canada for alcoholic beverages, the profits from those high prices aren’t going to support public services. Instead, the corporations that own private stores have the leverage to successfully pressure the provincial government to reduce the revenue it receives from liquor sales.
There is also the consequence of privatization for workers and their communities. Workers in public liquor stores have modest incomes, but they still earn significantly more than workers in privately owned stores. That difference in wages makes a huge difference in people’s lives.
Public liquor stores also offer high-quality service. Because the focus is on serving the public, rather than maximizing profits, they do a better job of protecting underaged and vulnerable people. With a public system, people in all parts of the province, not just a few upscale urban neighbourhoods, benefit from the expertise of a highly trained, skilled, knowledgeable, and motivated workforce.
The only winners out of liquor store privatization will be large corporations, like grocery chains. The losers will be everyone else in Saskatchewan.