No Further Privatization of Liquor Sales

April 8, 2019

In response to the article in the April 4, 2019 edition of The Guardian regarding the PC Party election promise to open up beer and wine sales in grocery/convenience stores:

The PEI Union of Public Sector Employees (UPSE) would oppose any further privatization of the sale of liquor in our province.  Provincial liquor stores offer a healthy balance of knowledgeable customer service with well trained staff to serve customers responsibly.  Our members have intrinsic controls to protect and educate the public, such as ID’ing individuals, refusing sales to intoxicated customers and alcohol abuse prevention initiatives. The current system is able to maintain rigorous enforcement levels because employees are properly and consistently trained. Implementing a system of private sales will require a significant government investment for training and monitoring of all retail locations to ensure compliance with the law. Important to note that revenues from sales in the public system goes directly to government coffers in order to pay for government programs such as healthcare, education and programs for families.

There is no question that drinking under the influence and addiction is a serious problem in PEI.  We should be cautious about fostering a market that may make it easier for minors and people struggling with addiction to obtain alcohol.  I know that this would not be the intent, however, many would agree that this is one of the outcomes of selling liquor at grocery/convenience stores and gas stations.

A recently released study reported in the Ottawa Citizen concluded that: “Alcohol de-regulation appears to have resulted in increased alcohol-related harms in Ontario.  And visits to emergency departments because of alcohol are just the tip of the iceberg, say researchers.  Deregulation has likely had negative impacts far beyond the reported emergency department visits.”

A report from MADD Canada concluded that: “Experience in other countries and in Canada indicates that privatizing alcohol sales will increase alcohol-related deaths, injuries and social problems through increased alcohol availability and consumption. Provincial liquor boards provide society with a reasonable measure of control over alcohol pricing and accessibility, and thereby effectively manage alcohol consumption and alcohol related harm. At the same time, provincial liquor boards offer customers high levels of service, quality and selection, along with a strong commitment to social responsibility which benefits consumers and non-consumers alike. Maintaining provincial liquor boards is in the best interest of all Canadians.”

UPSE believes that what is needed is a better approach, one that strengthens public sector participation in the sale of alcohol.  We urge all parties to make this commitment. 

Karen Jackson, President of PEI Union of Public Sector Employees