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BC Liquor Policies Criticized; Manitoba to Allow Grocery Store Sales

The Georgia Straight has a major investigative piece today which criticizes BC\’s outdated liquor system and related laws. It\’s a well written and thoughtful piece which provides input from many industry players including the former minister, the general manager of the LDB, the head of the BCGEU, restauranteurs, retail store owners. Here\’s the article: BC\’s Liquor Rules Still Sting. A couple of points: the article does not delve into the details of some of the more egregious issues in the system … perhaps someone else will pick up the torch on that. I am quoted as favouring increased privatization (true) and the government system is defended (by others) as being useful because it ensures uniformity of price across the province. That last point has always seemed odd to me. Why is it a legitimate function of government to ensure that liquor prices are the same everywhere? The government doesn\’t do that for milk or fresh vegetables. Why on earth would they do it for liquor? Is liquor an essential service and milk is not?

Meanwhile, a potentially seismic shift comes from Manitoba where the government has announced that it will permit beer and wine sales in grocery stores (albeit under the control of liquor board employees) as well as corkage in restaurants and online social event permits: see the new release (PDF File – Province Introduces New Hospitality Strategy) and this CBC story, Liquor Sales Eyed for Manitoba Grocery Stores. While these moves will likely increase convenience for consumers to a limited extent, it makes no sense in my view to have government employees supervising the beer and wine aisle in a supermarket. That will simply drive up costs for no reason. However, it\’s a smart tactical move for the Manitoba Liquor Commission.

Hopefully, the BC government is paying attention to these issues. It\’s long past time that BC announced modernization of our rules and retail distribution system.

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