The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) will open three new, private liquor stores in the province’s two largest cities.
“These new stores will serve customers and create new business opportunities without significant change to the province’s current retail system,” said Donna Harpauer, minister responsible for the SLGA, in a release.
Two new outlets offering the full range of wines, spirits and beers will open in Saskatoon and one in Regina.
The stores will join the 185 existing private franchises, 79 public liquor outlets, and 440 private off-sale outlets — hotels, pubs, and so forth — currently operating in the province, said David Morris, a spokesperson for the SLGA.
According to Morris, liquor sales generated almost $220 million in net income for the province in the 2011/2012 fiscal year.
The launch of the new outlets follows an earlier release of a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Parkland Institute that said the province should favour a ‘superior’ public liquor sales model.
“I question the comments that have been made in that particular report,” Harpauer told the Times-Herald. “The (liquor sales) system we have in place is already a public-private blended system... (there are) more private outlets than public.”
The report compared Saskatchewan’s system to the private sales systems in Alberta and British Columbia. According to the report, Saskatchewan’s system draws more money for the province and handles liquor sales more responsibly.
It cautions that private systems, such as Alberta’s, result in greater social harm than the system in place in Saskatchewan.
But Harpauer remains unconvinced that private liquor sales outlets are negligent or less responsible in the handling of liquor sales.
“I don’t believe our franchisees, restaurants or hotels have been irresponsible in the sales of liquor,” she said.
Harpauer stressed that the opening of privatized liquor outlets will allow the government to focus on its other priorities — namely, health care, education, and infrastructure.
She said she could confirm the premier will not sell existing public enterprises, but that the government is “working to determine the viability of the market to support further outlets.”