Incoming Newfoundland Premier Frank Coleman is picking a fight with public sector workers as he moves to privatize publicly operated liquor stores.
St. Johns (27 Tues. 2014) — The President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE) is warning incoming Premier Frank Coleman against privatizing the province's liquor stores.
NAPE/NUPGE, the union representing liquor store employees, says the move is something it would strongly oppose.
Incoming Premier picking a fight even before taking office
Frank Coleman, the incoming Premier, made comments to the media on the weekend that privatizing the provincial liquor stores was something he is considering. Some media outlets are pointing out that Coleman is the chair of Rocky Mountain Liquor Inc., a chain of privatized liquor stores in Alberta.
Furlong points out that there has not been a large public demand for the move. Furthermore, she argues that the current system is highly profitable for the province.
She also finds it unusual that the incoming Premier is trying to pick a fight with the province's largest public sector union before taking office.
Privatization a failure elsewhere in the country
A 2012 report by the Saskatchewan office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Parkland Institute concludes that the full privatization of liquor stores in Alberta and the partial privatization in British Columbia have resulted in higher prices, lower revenues for government and increased social harms.
Impaired Judgement: The Economic and Social Consequences of Liquor Privatization in Western Canada, authored by University of Alberta public finance economist Greg Flanagan and Parkland Public Policy Research Manager David Campanella, is a comparative study of liquor systems in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
The authors conclude that the full privatization of liquor stores in Alberta and the partial privatization in British Columbia have resulted in higher prices, lower revenues for government and increased social harms in comparison to Saskatchewan’s public system. Some of the highlights of the report include:
- In a price comparison of beer, wine and spirits in the three provinces, B.C.’s private stores had the highest price on 11 of 13 products surveyed, while Alberta’s private stores were the second costliest.
- Since privatization, Alberta has forgone nearly $1.5 billion in tax revenue.
- Public stores consistently demonstrate higher compliance rates than private stores in regards to sales to minors or intoxicated patrons. In B.C., public stores had an average compliance rate of 70 per cent compared to only 35 per cent for private stores.
- After the 1993 liquor privatization in Alberta, Edmonton police reported double the amount of offences for minors in possession of alcohol.
- A public monopoly allows communities to control the density of liquor stores in their neighbourhoods. In contrast, liquor store density in B.C. after partial privatization increased 56.83 per cent, while density in Alberta increased 72.18 per cent after full privatization.
- A public monopoly also allows for the greater regulation of low-price, high-alcohol-content products marketed to youth.
- A 2011 study by the Centre for Addictions Research for British Columbia, University of Victoria, found that each additional private liquor store per 1,000 residents 15 years and older increased local alcohol mortality by 27.5 per cent in B.C. between 2003 and 2008.
- In Alberta and British Columbia, liquor retail privatization has meant high liquor prices but low government revenue. Further, the increased availability of alcohol and its lax regulation contravene recognized methods for protecting public health.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE