Home » Ivonne Martinez: Stop using Alberta to defend Ontario’s liquor monopoly

Ivonne Martinez: Stop using Alberta to defend Ontario’s liquor monopoly

by Marjorie

The sort of torqued up us-versus-them rhetoric they’ve used of their promoting has had its day. It ignores the reality and serves no one

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In the case of our petty regional squabbles, Canada has come a great distance in the previous few years.

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It was once extra trendy to carry up one area or one province in opposition to one other to attain political factors. It may make for a superb headline, however does little to foster trustworthy and respectful public debate — to not point out interprovincial goodwill.

Fortunately, this sort of adversarial discourse is turn out to be much less prevalent, however now and again we’re reminded that there are nonetheless those that aren’t above unfairly and inaccurately attacking one other a part of the nation for their very own achieve.

Enter the Ontario Public Service Workers Union (OPSEU). The union representing 130,000 full-time workers – together with about 7,000 government-owned liquor retailer workers – is opposing the Ontario authorities’s plans to introduce liquor gross sales in grocery shops. Ontario, like most provinces, has a authorities monopoly on liquor gross sales and OPSEU argues such a transfer could be a hazard to public security and open the door to full-scale privatization of liquor gross sales.

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As a part of their marketing campaign in opposition to it, OPSEU has run radio adverts over lengthy weekends this summer time, wrapping up on the Labour Day weekend. In one in every of them, a sombre feminine voiceover proclaims, “In Alberta, you should buy alcohol on the grocery chains. And, in Alberta, it’s three-and-a-half instances extra seemingly that the individual you cross popping out of the parking zone is driving drunk. Do you wish to make that sort of a trade-off in Ontario?”

The advert trades on an antiquated Alberta stereotype; an unregulated redneck paradise the place authorities has vacated its obligations and allowed the worst social offenders to run wild. On this case, OPSEU implies Alberta’s roads are choked with impaired drivers as a result of its authorities permits non-public enterprise to promote alcohol.

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On the floor, it’s a compelling sentiment – which is definitely why OPSEU selected it. However there are two inescapable information that OPSEU has chosen to disregard and the folks of Ontario ought to heed.

First, liquor privatization in Alberta has been a real success story. Albertans take pleasure in each the widest choice and biggest availability of alcoholic merchandise anyplace in Canada. Earlier than privatization in 1993, there have been 208 ALCB shops promoting 2,200 totally different merchandise. Right this moment, Alberta has 1,376 liquor shops retailers promoting greater than 22,000 merchandise. Which means Alberta has opened about one new liquor retailer every week for the final 22 years.

However the advantages of privatization transcend merely having extra alternative on the native liquor retailer. The rise in liquor retailers means extra small companies paying taxes and offering jobs – about 12,000 by our final depend. And in keeping with federal authorities statistics, liquor retailer workers in privatized Alberta make greater than these in virtually each different province, together with Ontario.

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The Alberta story consists of another little factoids the anti-privatization crowd received’t like. Authorities income from the liquor gross sales has really elevated since privatization. In 1993, the final yr the provincial authorities managed liquor gross sales in Alberta, the province collected $405 million from alcohol gross sales. Adjusted for inflation, that equates to $662 million in right now’s phrases. In fiscal 2014-15, the liquor business pumped $766 million into authorities coffers.

So, to sum up Alberta since privatization: Extra choice. Extra comfort. Extra jobs. Larger wages. Extra authorities income. Aggressive costs. Not a lot of a cautionary story.

Additionally, regardless of quite a few markup will increase within the final half decade or so, alcohol costs nonetheless stay aggressive in opposition to different, government-run jurisdictions. In truth, earlier than the tax hikes, Alberta boasted a number of the lowest costs within the nation, greater than 10 years after privatization. A Fraser Institute research in contrast 1,845 merchandise obtainable at BC authorities shops with two chain shops in Alberta and located 83 per cent of beer, wine and spirits had been cheaper in Alberta.

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So, to sum up Alberta since privatization: Extra choice. Extra comfort. Extra jobs. Larger wages. Extra authorities income. Aggressive costs. Not a lot of a cautionary story.

OPSEU would have us imagine that every one of this progress is by some means chargeable for Alberta having greater impaired driving charges than Ontario – 450 impaired driving incidents per 100,000 folks in Alberta versus 130 in Ontario. Ostensibly, it’s an apples to apples comparability that matches properly right into a 30-second advert. However right here is the second reality: There isn’t any proof to assist the speculation that liquor privatization has something to do with impaired driving charges.

You don’t should look very far to dispel the notion. Only one province over, in truth. Saskatchewan, with its authorities monopoly on alcohol gross sales and all of the strict laws that come together with it, has a 50% greater impaired driving fee than Alberta. That’s nothing in comparison with Yukon (943 incidents/100,000) and the Northwest Territories (1,463 incidents/100,000), jurisdictions that – like Saskatchewan – have authorities monopolies on liquor.

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Impaired driving is a fancy phenomenon, with layers of contributing elements and social determinants. To check one province’s impaired driving fee to a different’s based mostly solely on retail mannequin, as OPSEU is doing, is intentionally deceptive.

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OPSEU’s advert marketing campaign is now over, however their opposition to any kind of transfer in the direction of privatization certainly is just not. That, after all, is their proper. However let’s hope they will make their case on benefit and reality. The sort of torqued up us-versus-them rhetoric they’ve used of their promoting has had its day. It ignores the reality and serves no one.

Alberta will proceed down the free market path, questioning why extra provinces received’t observe swimsuit.

Nationwide Put up

Ivonne Martinez is the President of the Alberta Liquor Retailer Affiliation, the skilled group representing the vast majority of Alberta’s impartial liquor shops.

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