"Alcohol is not just another consumer product. It is a drug and we need to examine the potential impact of changes to how we sell it." - Bob Bymoen, President SGEU
Regina (29 Oct. 2012) - A move towards even partial privatization of liquor sales could have serious, unwanted consequences for the safety and well-being of Saskatchewan families and communities, based on the experience in British Columbia, according to Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE).
Premier Brad Wall recently indicated that his government is looking at increasing the number of liquor stores in Saskatchewan and potentially allowing private, for-profit businesses to own and operate these new outlets.
"Opening the door to private liquor sales is a major public policy shift," said SGEU President Bob Bymoen. "We need to take a much closer look at what this could mean for our families and communities. Alcohol is not just another consumer product. It is a drug and we need to examine the potential impact of changes to how we sell it."
In 2003, B.C. allowed private retailers to move into the liquor market alongside publicly-owned and operated stores.
"The B.C. experience shows that an increase in private liquor stores is linked to a dramatic increase in social harm - in particular, there has been a significant increase in alcohol-related deaths in that province since privatization," Bymoen noted.
A 2011 study by Tim Stockwell, Director of the Centre for Addictions Research for British Columbia at the 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.
Judging from the research, we can expect to see more deaths in Saskatchewan due to traffic accidents, alcohol poisoning, homicides and suicides, if we open up our liquor retail system to private businesses.
B.C.'s private liquor stores are also much more likely to sell liquor to underage customers than the province's publicly-operated stores. A series of studies by the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch found that for-profit retailers only had a 25 per cent rate of compliance with underage drinking laws, compared with a 63 per cent compliance rate for public stores between 2003 and 2009.
"We need to think about long-term consequences on this issue. Research indicates that a private liquor retail system leads to increased consumption, and increased consumption leads to more social harm. Why would we go down that road?" asked Bymoen.
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