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Saskatchewan News

Will private liquor stores take liquor revenue away from SK or not?

SGEU ad argues they will but the government disagrees
Reported by Lisa Schick
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Saskatchewan is in the process of getting three new, private, liquor stores, and a new ad from the SGEU says that’s going to take money away from the government.

The Saskatchewan Party government argues that this is not the case.

Meanwhile, numbers from Statistics Canada looking at liquor sales in Alberta and B.C., suggest there is almost no immediate change in government revenue after liquor sales are privatized.

CLICK HERE to see Stats Can table of provincial net income from liquor authorities and control and sale of alcohol.

(NOTE: you can change the settings on this table to show just Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.)

In the SGEU ad a woman’s voice says, “You may think you’re just buying a bottle of wine or a case of beer when you shop at one of our province’s public liquor stores, but you’re actually getting a whole lot more. Profits from public liquor sales are returned to our communities. To help fund hospitals, and schools, police and community safety, provincial parks, roads, and so much more.”

Then she goes on to say that private stores take that profit and funding away.

CLICK HERE to watch the full SGEU video on Youtube.

The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union’s president, Bob Bymoen agrees.

“It’s not a logical thought to think that you can privatize this and government isn’t going to lose revenue, because they lose the profit that the stores generate,” said Bymoen.

Bymoen used the example of a public store and a private store that both make a million dollars in profit. He said 100 per cent of the profit from the public store goes to the government, but only about 15 per cent of the profit from the private store would go to the government.

“So just on the profit, the million dollars of profit, there’s $850,000 that should be used to offset the social programs that are required due to the sale of alcohol,” said Bymoen.

As proof he cited a recent study from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives about the consequences of liquor privatization in Western Canada.

CLICK HERE to see the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives' study.

Bymoen used Alberta as an example, which privatized liquor sales in 1993.

“Our own numbers and our information say that Alberta has forfeited $1.5 billion in revenue since they privatized the liquor stores.”

However Saskatchewan’s Minister in charge of liquor and gaming, Donna Harpauer, disagreed.

Harpauer cited numbers from the Alberta liquor and gaming commission’s website.

“It shows that before privatization and after privatization they’re making over 200 million more dollars in alcohol sales than they were before privatization,” Harpauer noted.

At odds with Bymoen and the SGEU’s ad, Harpauer insists private stores won’t lose the provincial government money.

“We don’t lose money on our private franchises or our off-sale outlets. Yes we do give a discount on our markup price, but we don’t have the overhead costs,” she commented.

Numbers from Statistics Canada back up Harpauer’s argument. They show almost no change in liquor profit from general government revenue or government revenue from sales by liquor authorities after privatization.

CLICK HERE to see the Statistics Canada table of general government revenue, including liquor profits.

(NOTE: you can change the settings on this table to show Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.)

That’s looking at Alberta before and after they completely privatized liquor sales in 1993, and B.C. before and after they partially privatized sales in 2003.

Bymoen still disagrees with those numbers, “it’s a shell game of government revenue when it comes to this, but it’s our position that yes, (revenue went down) in Alberta.”