Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Report Says Privatizing Liquor Stores Costly to Government Coffers, Health

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Report Says Privatizing Liquor Stores Costly to Government Coffers, Health

Article excerpt

Report says liquor privatization a mistake

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REGINA - A new report claims private liquor stores in Western Canada have higher prices than publicly owned stores, while also pouring less revenue into government coffers.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Parkland Institute released a report Tuesday on liquor privatization in Western Canada and suggested it would be foolhardy for Saskatchewan to follow Alberta or British Columbia's lead to privatize liquor stores.

"A common lure behind liquor privatization is a promise of cheaper alcohol," report co-author David Campanella of the Parkland Institute said at a news conference in Regina.

"Our research, as well as other studies, found this to be a false promise."

Campanella said the left-of-centre groups compared 13 popular beverages and found private stores in Alberta and B.C. averaged the highest prices. It was, "perhaps surprisingly to some," public stores in Saskatchewan and B.C. that had the lowest prices on nearly all of the items, he said.

Campanella said privatization has also been particularly costly to Albertans.

"By not maintaining its pre-privatization level of tax revenue per litre of alcohol sold, the government has foregone roughly $1.5 billion in liquor revenue since 1993," he said.

Campanella said in 2011, Alberta had the highest per capita consumption and the lowest per capita revenue from liquor stores. In contrast, Saskatchewan earns nearly the same revenue per litre of alcohol sold as British Columbia, which is much more densely populated, he said.

"In general, the liquor industry is not a money maker for governments," he said.

The report also says that from the beginning of British Columbia's privatization initiative, the government found "serious compliance problems" at the private stores when it came to selling alcohol to minors. …

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