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Province proposes private liquor sales at Manitoba retailers

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The Manitoba government wants to allow private liquor sales in retail and grocery stores across the province.

Proposed changes to the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act would enable privately-owned stores to stock liquor on their shelves as part of a five-year pilot project.

“As we continue to modernize Manitoba’s liquor retailing system, our government remains focused on increasing convenience for Manitobans while at the same time ensuring the responsible sale and consumption of liquor,” said Municipal Relations Minister Andrew Smith in a news release. “Allowing the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba to license retail store operators would ensure proper oversight and regulatory compliance, while enabling retailers to offer new products to customers that would help grow businesses.”

Meantime, the Manitoba General Employees Union (MGEU) thinks privatization of liquor sales is a bad idea, and will divert cash from the province to large corporations.

“Over $316 million in profits are generated every year from the public sale of liquor,” the union said in an email statement. “That money currently pays for important public services like schools, hospitals and highways. Privatizing more sales will redirect these profits to big, out-of-province corporations like Sobeys and Superstore.”

The MGEU said this decision will once again lead to more liquor thefts in our province. “With the secure entrances, our Liquor Marts have put a stop to the brazen thefts and violence. Manitobans now enjoy some of the safest liquor stores in the country. This bill will open the door to the liquor theft and violence problem in grocery stores.”

Details on the pilot project are not yet clear. The proposed amendments would determine when the five-year period begins, the proximity and number of participating stores, and display requirements for liquor products.

An amendment to the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation Act would also change the definition of a liquor store to allow more Manitoba retailers to be eligible for a liquor store license. Participating stores would have to buy their alcoholic products from Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.

The MGEU said the province already sells alcohol in Manitoba grocery stores.

“We urge the government to simply open more Liquor Mart Express stores like those currently located safely within many Manitoba grocery stores. That will ensure the safety and security of staff and consumers all while ensuring the profits stay in Manitoba,” 

The province said these changes will bring Manitoba in line with other Canadian jurisdictions, where the sale of liquor in retail stores is permitted.

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