Conservative government expanding network of 'agency stores' in smaller communities
Halifax (10 May 2006) - The Nova Scotia Conservatives are gradually privatizing liquor sales by steadily expanding outlets known as 'agency stores,' says the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE).
Privatization in other parts of Canada has led to higher prices, less selection, poorer service and an increase in social and policing problems.
The government-run Nova Scotia Liquor Commission has issued "request for proposals" that could lead to 31 new privately-operated outlets in smaller communities by this summer.
Agency stores usually operate within existing private stores, paying employees as little as the minimum wage.
NSGEU president Joan Jessome says expansion of commission outlets is welcome but it should be done on an equitable basis by knowledgeable staff earning the same pay as the approximately 600 other commission employees across the province.
"These workers provide excellent and knowledgeable service to their customers. They earn good salaries and benefits which allow them to contribute to their local economies," says Jessome.
"The potential loss of jobs, wages and service to an expanding agency store system will have a very negative impact, especially in rural Nova Scotia."
Gordie Gosse, a New Democrat MLA, says the province is slowly but surely moving toward a province-wide system of private, low-wage, liquor sales that will end up benefitting local merchants far more than the public - corner store liquor sold by minimum wage workers.
"It’s privatization by stealth," the MLA argues.
Jessome agrees. When former premier John Hamm opened eight agency outlets in 2001, the province said it had no plans for any more private outlets, she recalls.
"Since that time, we’ve had an additional 15 agency stores open in the province. Now – we’re looking at up to an additional 31 stores. At the same time, hours of operation
are being reduced at 26 smaller NSLC stores in rural areas of Nova Scotia,” adds Jessome.
"In our minds, this is a clear indication that the province is slowly but surely moving towards privatization.”
Communities where agency stores are proposed include the following: (* Indicates communities where plebiscites would be required to authorize sales.) NUPGE
• Boylston, Guysborough County
• Port Greville, Cumberland County
• Halfway Cove, Guysborough County
• Larrys River, Guysborough County
• Springfield, Annapolis County *
• New Harbour or Coddles Harbour, Guysborough County
• Louisdale, Richmond County
• Fourchu, Richmond County
• Big Bras d’Or, Victoria County
• Cape North, Victoria County
• Wallace, Cumberland County*
• Rawdon or Rawdon Gold Mines, Hants County *
• Vaughan, Hants County
• Wedgeport, Yarmouth County
• Homeville, Cape Breton County
• Goshen, Guysborough County or Lochaber, Antigonish County
• Indian Brook, North Shore or French River, Victoria County
• Canning, Halls Harbour or Blomidon, Kings County *
• Neils Harbour, Victoria County
• Albert Bridge, Cape Breton County
• Big Pond, Ben Eoin or East Bay, Cape Breton County
• Lismore, Pictou County, or Arisaig, Antigonish County
• Goldboro, Crossroads or Country Harbour, Guysborough County
• Ecum Secum or Liscomb, Guysborough County, or Moser River, Halifax County
• Peggys Cove, Dover, Whites Lake or Shad Bay area, Halifax County
• Port Joli, Queens County *
• Lower, Middle or Upper Ohio, Shelburne County *
• Judique, Inverness County
• Merigomish, Pictou County
• Riverport or Rose Bay, Lunenburg County
• West LaHave, Lunenburg County