The British Columbia branch of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation has turned its attention to government-run liquor stores in our province.
The linchpin of their campaign for privatizing B.C.’s liquor stores is the premise that while actual prohibition in British Columbia lasted for only four years from 1917 to 1921 “The prohibition on full competition has lasted much longer”.
The B.C. government, claims the Federation, could “get out of liquor retailing, still collect the revenues it wants, give job creation a push, and give B.C. consumers and tourists a much more competitive liquor retail environment.” They continue with the logic that “selling beer is hardly a core function of government.”
The case is backed-up with some fairly convincing numbers. They claim that a bottle of Mission Hill Merlot, produced in this very province, can be purchased for as little as $7.45 in private Alberta liquor stores, while the same bottle will cost you as much as $9.45 in this province. And they claim similar savings in Alberta on beer.
The federation has numbers to back up the claims of little competition in the B.C. market. They state Alberta has 907 private liquor stores, equating to one store for every 3,400 people, while in B.C. there is one store for every 5,300 people that’s with 224 government stores and 544 private stores which for the most part cannot sell spirits.
The BCTF sees in these numbers a huge gap in competition between the provinces stating that of 1854 price-product comparisons between government stores here and two private chains there that 82.6 per cent of products were cheaper in Alberta.
The BCTF’s plan is to rush headlong into privatizating eschewing this province’s half-way’ plan of one day lifting the moratorium on private stores yet continueing to operate existing government outlets.
If it is possible to give taxpayers better prices through competition, stimulate job creation and still collect the tax revenue it needs, why would the government not have already followed Alberta’s lead? This is the point where the Liberals remind us that when Alberta liquor stores went private B.C. had an NDP government. But having been in power for nearly a year they could have already remedied the situation and taken advantage of an added bonus that fits right in with their current policies: private liquor store clerks would be paid a wage competitive with other store clerks instead of a wage on par with other unionized government employees.