Manitoba's plan to expand private liquor sales may not happen before the provincial election slated for Oct. 3, reported The Canadian Press on Monday.
According to the report, The Opposition New Democrats say they plan to use procedural rules to hold back two bills awaiting a vote in the legislature. One bill, tabled by Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government, would allow liquor to be sold in new retail environments, such as grocery or corner stores. The second bill would allow private beer vendors and wine stores to sell more alcohol products.
The Progressive Conservative government has been flirting with the idea of liquor sales in c-stores for over a year, originally introducing a bill to ease liquor rules in May last year and then reintroducing it in November.
Most recently, Andrew Smith, Manitoba’s minister for liquor and lotteries, revived the government’s plan, creating a pipeline for liquor to be sold in more retail stores, possibly including c-stores, by Oct. 3.
Smith introduced the plan in March this year and said there would be a five-year pilot project and public consultations before deciding what kind of stores might be involved, adding that the aim was to give Manitobans more convenience and choice, and bring Manitoba more in line with other provinces.
“This is a win-win-win decision,” Jeff Brownlee, vice-president of communication and stakeholder relation for the Convenience Industry Council of Canada (CICC), told us via email in March. “It’s good news for Manitobans, the convenience store industry as well as the provincial government.”
Brownlee commented when the announcement to revive the liquor bill was made, saying that the CICC had been working with the Manitoba government and advocating for the modernization of the retail sale of alcohol, specifically the pilot project the Progressive Conservatives were considering.
“There are 904 convenience stores in Manitoba, collecting $471 million in taxes for the provincial government. More than half of the total serve rural areas of the province. This pilot project will benefit rural Manitobans the most as they will now be able to “one-stop shop” at their local c-store to stock up on snacks and their favourite alcoholic beverages before watching a Jets’ game instead of driving long distances,” added Brownlee.
According to The Canadian Press, NDP liquor and lotteries critic Lisa Naylor says parents don't want to see liquor sold at kid-friendly places such as c-stores.
The Progressive Conservative government has said it is simply responding to consumer demand for convenience and easier one-stop shopping, reported The Canadian Press.
“We have an excellent track record in selling age-restricted products already,” said Brownlee, “Retail sales of beverage alcohol in the channel has positive economic spinoffs in the short term.”
According to Brownlee, economic data in 2021 revealed that enabling Manitoba convenience stores to sell beverage alcohol would result in up to an additional:
740 full-time and 450 part-time jobs
$27.4 million in annual wages
$14.8 million in additional annual tax revenues
Up to $48 million in total capital expenditures
Normally, the opposition tactics would mean the bills are delayed a few months and passed in the fall, reported The Canadian Press, adding: “However, with an election this year, the delay means the bills are almost certain to not be passed before the election.”