Saskatchewan will look at Alberta-style liquor store privatization

Posted : 11/06/2014

CBC News 

November 4, 2014

The Saskatchewan government has launched a review on the future of its liquor stores — with Alberta-style privatization one of five options.

"There are a lot of opinions about how we should sell liquor," Don McMorrris, the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, said Tuesday in a news release.

"This consultation process will let us hear directly from the public and key stakeholders about what they would like to see when it comes to liquor retailing in Saskatchewan."

The five options on the table include:

·         the status quo where the government continues to own dozens of liquor stores.

·         an expansion of private retail stores.

·         Alberta-style privatization of all liquor stores.

·         Slower transition to all-private liquor store system.

·         Expansion of government-owned stores.

Like Saskatchewan, Alberta used to have a system of government-owned liquor stores, but under the Ralph Klein government in the 1990s, that province made a relatively quick switch to an all-private system.

The Saskatchewan government says it will be gathering feedback from customers and others who are interested until Jan. 30, 2015.

Right now, there are 75 government-owned liquor stores and hundreds of off-sale outlets and rural franchises.

There have also been a small number of private liquor stores approved in recent years.

The government has already said that any new liquor stores which open in Saskatchewan will be private.

In May, Premier Brad Wall said he believed privatizing liquor stores would give shoppers more choice, and provide the province with more money from increased sales.

However, he said his government would never sell those stores without a strong mandate from the public.

Right now, a law prevents privatization of Crown assets.

Responding the the review, New Democrat MLA Cathy Sproule said the government is trying to distract people from issues that really matter to them, such as health care and education.

Pressed on which liquor board option the NDP supports, Sproule said it's none of the above. Instead, an improved public-private hybrid is preferred, she said. 

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