Letter to the Editor

Posted June 06, 2012

I would like to respectfully reply to the Guardian editorial entitled "Engaging the private sector in liquor sales." The union strongly opposes the government's decision to expand the privatization of liquor sales in Prince Edward Island. First, government should not tamper with the LCC because it consistently earns millions of dollars for the province year over year. In 2010-11, the LCC brought in approximately $92 million. This money is used to fund essential public services like health care and education.

Second, privatizing liquor sales will result in further rural decline in Prince Edward Island. The LCC outlet in Wood Islands is being closed at the expense of the community and the workforce. There are now twenty-three LCC workers that have been, or will be laid off in Prince Edward Island. The government is reducing hours in ten other provincially operated liquor stores across PEI which will mean less hours for workers and an unfair advantage for private locations which will be open for business while the public outlets are closed. Government is succeeding in pitting rural communities on PEI against each other. Consider the decision to introduce private liquor sales in Cavendish at the expense of small business and the LCC in Rustico minutes away. The people of Rustico, Wood Islands and other rural communities are dumbfounded by the government's decision to introduce private agency stores. In response, I think we should make a conscious effort to continue shopping at public outlets because it is the right thing to do on several levels. Even the recent Drummond Report in Ontario, which closely examined that province's fiscal situation, recommended that more full service, public liquor stores be built to maximize government revenue.

Finally, I want to touch on the serious health and social consequences associated with bringing private retailers into the PEI equation on liquor sales. This aspect of the debate has not been touched on and I believe it is worth consideration. A recent study by the University of Victoria's Centre for Addiction Research shows that there is a 27.5% increase in alcohol related deaths (for every 1000 British Columbians) with the introduction of each new private liquor store. We also see in provinces like Alberta, where alcohol is sold privately, that they have the highest alcohol consumption rate in the country. We might want to ask ourselves - is maximizing profit at the expense of people's lives really worth it? Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) doesn't think so. This credible organization strongly supports the provincial liquor board model and we do too, because allowing alcohol to be sold in convenience stores and gas stations will lead to increased addiction and abuse of the substance. It will also provide easier access for youth - our most precious resource. And while I am on the topic of our youth, I thought I should mention that the only convenience store / gas bar in Kinkora is located just a few hundred metres from Kinkora Senior High. Now that is convenience at its best.

Shelley Ward‚

President‚ PEI Union of Public Sector Employees

Please contact Mark Barrett at 892-5335 (or toll-free at 1-800- 897-8773) to arrange an interview.