Opinion Column

B.C. Liquor 'convenience' has high cost

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

FOTOLIA

FOTOLIA

“I've seen the future, I can't afford it.” - ABC, How To Be A Millionaire, 1985

 

The future is indeed unaffordable for wine, beer and spirits drinkers in British Columbia because what are considered the highest prices in North America already are doomed to rise even more while B.C. wines get squeezed off the shelves.

Why? Government policy, of course.

The BC Liberals are creating a brave new world of increasingly pricey alcoholic beverages under the guise of “convenience.”

Take, for example, just one bottle of wine that costs double here what you can buy it for in California.

In San Francisco in August in a non-descript corner store on Haight Street, I bought a bottle of excellent Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for US$17.99 – that’s $24.06 Canadian.

In BC Liquor Stores, the regular price is $42.90 – plus 10-cent deposit, 10% PST and 5% GST for another $6.44 for a final price of $49.44.

The BC price is $25.38 more – over twice San Francisco’s price – for the same wine.

And while that Beringer wine costs more in Quebec than San Francisco, at $37.25 – it’s still $12.19 cheaper than in B.C. And in Ontario, it’s $39.95 or $9.49 cheaper.

To add insult to injury, the BC Liquor Stores website notes it has sold Beringer Knights Valley since 1989, when the price was $21.70.

That means San Francisco’s price in August 2015 was only $2.36 a bottle more than in B.C. a stunning 26 years ago.

But as bad as that is, things will soon get far worse.

That’s because B.C. is starting to sell wine in supermarkets, and in every jurisdiction in the world, once that starts those stores dominate and crush smaller competitors.

In Australia, a new report says just two supermarket chains account for 70% of all wine sales. Will B.C. be different?

“Go down a grocery aisle to the ketchup section. What do you see there? Heinz, dominating the shelves,” said Kim Pullan of B.C.’s Church and State winery in August. “I see the same thing happening to B.C. wine.”

The only tiny bit of good news? If you really still want that Beringer, it’s on sale for $4 off in B.C. until Jan. 2 – for “just” $38.90 plus tax.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman  

Poll

Do you think wine, beer or spirits prices in B.C. will ever go down under the provincial government’s new approach?