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Privatization in liquor’s future: BC NDP 0

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

(TORONTO SUN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION)

(TORONTO SUN PHOTO ILLUSTRATION)

The province’s plan on how to manage the sale of liquor in grocery stores was revealed Thursday, raising questions on what Victoria plans to do with public outlets.

The government said in a release the two-part model involves the “store within a store” concept, as well as another allowing Canadian wine to be sold off designated shelves and cashiers.

The store-within-a-store model will involve the transfer or sale of already allocated private licenses to grocery stores or the transferring of public liquor licences into them.

But BC NDP liquor critic Shane Simpson said the reforms look like the province is planning to privatize booze sales.

The Vancouver-Hastings MLA said another sign in the plans to move to single pricing, causing public and private stores to pay the same for inventory, supports the theory.

“It does lay the groundwork potentially for a privatization initiative,” Simpson said, “or for an initiative to reduce the number of government stores by challenging whether they’re making the kind of revenue they want.”

Victoria put a cork in it when pressed by 24 hours if the model means the sale of public liquor store licences to supermarkets.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson referred to the initial press release and didn’t answer the more direct question: “Is the province planning to sell private liquor licences to supermarkets?”

Darryl Walker at the BC Government Employees Union, which represent public liquor store workers, said he doesn’t think that is the plan.

“I’m told the provincial licences cannot be sold,” he said. “But I’m told they can be transferred.”

Walker said the union would “be interested” in moving its locations inside grocery stores.

Victoria is also exploring putting a fee onto the transfer or sale of the licences.

Parliamentary Secretary John Yap, who conducted a review of B.C.’s liquor laws last year, said the model blends public demand with concerns from private liquor stores.

“During the B.C. Liquor Policy Review consultations, I heard that consumers want convenience and choice, and the industry wants government to be flexible and promote an open, fair market. These changes address both of those calls,” he said.

The Ministry of Justice has now approved the recommendations and said such sales could start as early as 2015.

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