Privatization of liquor stores happens on a province by province basis, but it’s safe to say it’s one of the concerns Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) deals with each and every time a major election comes up.
With an election looming in 2016, the Manitoba Liberal party is the latest group to propose privatization for the provinces’ liquor sales and MADD is firmly standing against it. CEO of MADD Canada Andrew Murie feels that privatization of the liquor system will have an impact on impaired driving rates, liquor selection, and liquor pricing.
In the report ‘Provincial Liquor Boards: Meeting the best interest of Canadians,’ MADD has come out in full support of the continued privatization of liquor sales. Citing data from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and statistics from locations around the world where privatization of liquor sales has occurred, they recommend that maintaining government monopolies on alcohol sales will reduce alcohol-related harms like impaired driving, increased alcohol consumption, and increased underage drinking.
In addition to the harm they feel could come to Manitoba drivers with liquor stores that have irregular hours and no overall policies for the sales of liquor, MADD cites cost and selection of alcohol as a major deterrent to privatization of alcohol. According to Murie, provinces that have gone away from the liquor board system have resulted in increased theft and increased sales to minors.
There is support from other provinces for private liquor sales. Alberta has had privatization of liquor sales since September of 1993 and the province has experienced an increased product selection, increase in jobs for employees of liquor stores, and no valid proof that there has been an increase in drunk driving due to privatization. That hasn’t stopped other provinces from using it as an example in their effort to maintain government control over alcohol.
During the debate over Ontario’s privatization of liquor sales this past September, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) published ads on the radio saying that thanks to Alberta’s private liquor system, you’re 3 ½ times more likely to find a drunk driver in an Alberta parking lot than in Ontario.
The ads were met with backlash all across Canada, and because Alberta’s neighbour Saskatchewan has government controlled liquor sales and a 50% higher impaired driving rate than Alberta, it was an easy campaign to dispute.
Will Manitoba go the way of Alberta and British Columbia with privatization of their liquor sales? We’ll find out during the next election, but in the meantime you can guarantee there will be a lot of shots thrown in the debate over alcohol sales.