Opinion Column

B.C. liquor changes will mean higher prices for consumers

Bill Tieleman

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

QMI image

QMI image

“A liquor store is where they collect taxes for the government and also sell liquor." – Anonymous

It will cost consumers cash to pay for the B.C. government’s misleading “modernization” of liquor pricing – and more convenience will come at a hefty price.

That’s definitely not the message B.C. Liberal Attorney General Suzanne Anton wanted you to hear last week – but higher prices for wine, beer and spirits are the inevitable result of the most sweeping liquor changes in decades.

And the most laughable parts were Anton’s talk about introducing a “level playing field” and letting a “competitive market” flourish – when, just like their earlier “happy hour” announcement that increased instead of lowered bar booze prices – the exact opposite is true.

So consumers will pay dearly for the changes – including supermarkets selling wine, beer and spirits starting next April – while smaller liquor industry players get hurt and the big boys cash in.

Confused? That’s because the B.C. Liberals want you mystified while behind the scenes the cutthroat liquor industry engages in a bloody war to maximize profits and reduce true competition.

The biggest change is that all liquor stores – private plus government – will pay one wholesale price instead of a number of different rates.

And despite the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union issuing a positive news release supporting the changes, its public liquor store members may eventually see their jobs eliminated through gradual privatization, as the single wholesale price makes government stores less competitive.

John Clerides, owner of Vancouver’s independent Marquis Wine Cellars, believes consumers will pay more.

“I think the price goes up,” Clerides said in a Sunday interview. “It’s going to take some time to sort out.”

But Clerides already knows his independent wine store – one of 12 – will lose because their 30% discount off the government retail price disappears, while competitors who also sell beer and spirits will now buy wine at the same wholesale price.

And Clerides is scathing about how the government controls every aspect of the liquor industry.

“What is ‘level’ about what they’ve done?” Clerides asks. “The regulator, the wholesaler and the retailer – the Liquor Distribution Branch – are making the rules under which you’re competing!”

Wine and beer in more stores and none of it cheaper than today – welcome to liquor modernization, B.C. Liberal style.


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