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Here and There – Liquor Stores and the Cost of Apathy

Posted on April 21, 2016 by Maple Creek

It’s easy not to care. Very little effort is required, perhaps even none at all. One issue people in this province don’t seem to care much about is the Saskatchewan Party’s intention to expand private liquor sales.
When the government announced the decision in the fall of 2015, the minister of the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, Don McMorris, said this would give “citizens of this province more choice.”
It’s hard to argue against choice, which is probably why the government chose it as an argument for a project that doesn’t make sense. As a society, we believe very strongly that we have a right to choose, to decide. This is a value we cherish. The answer in this situation is that the choice we currently have isn’t broken so there’s no need to fix it.
I get suspicious when someone tells me they’re going to make a decision that’s best for me without presenting facts, figures or a scientific study to back up their stance. Instead of using reason and logic, the government is playing on our emotions and values.
They also said this was an election issue. That was their standpoint in the fall, but the reigning party essentially ignored the issue during the campaign and didn’t adequately inform us that we were also voting on the future of alcohol sales in the province.
An election isn’t a plebiscite. When I voted a few weeks ago, my ballot only gave me a choice between candidates. Nowhere did it allow me to express if I was in favour of the Sask. Party, but disagreed with privatization nor, did it give me the possibility to express that I supported both Brad Wall’s candidate and private liquor stores.
The election results weren’t surprising. Wall’s conservatives formed a strong majority and dominated in rural Saskatchewan. In fact, some agricultural ridings returned the previous government to power with 70 to 85 per cent of the vote.
Impressive, to say the least, but I’m not convinced that rural voters necessarily agree with all of the Sask. Party’s policies. Rather, it’s my belief that much of the electorate votes against a party rather than for one. To me, the province is currently governed by the Sask. Party in part as a reaction to past politicians like Pierre Trudeau and/or to the economic condition of this province during the Romanow years. That’s why many people don’t vote Liberal or NDP. With no other viable option, the Sask. Party laughs all the way to the bank.
And to continue with the financial comparison, citizens of this province effectively gave the Sask. Party a blank cheque on April 4. Perhaps the Wall government feels emboldened to do whatever it pleases given their overpowering majority.
That’s the irony of this situation. The Sask. Party’s bedrock of support comes from rural voters and the decision to private liquor sales will hurt small towns the most.
The job losses at the stores slated for closure belong to mature people who raise families, pay property taxes and contribute to their community. These are jobs you can make a career out of. The same cannot be said for the cashiers in Medicine Hat’s private liquor stores. The staff there is cobbled together with a variety of low-paying, part-time positions. On paper, the government can call privatization job creation. In reality, community members will be out of work and might be forced to move – another blow to small towns every in Saskatchewan. Even if you don’t work at the liquor board, this is your issue.
The folly of this decision is the timing. Oil revenues have tanked. There is no indication they will recover soon. At a time when we need a stable source of income, this government is selling off a guaranteed money-maker. To cover the loss in revenue, there will need to be an increase in taxes. As it stands, only people who consume alcohol generate the income in question. Once that revenue is lost, we can reasonably expect all of our taxes to go up to cover the shortfall. Even if you don’t drink, this is your issue.
A recent Global News report indicated Saskatchewan has the “highest rates of impaired driving incidents in the country.” Because of this, we are not poised to tinker with how liquor is sold. Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s position is that expanding liquor sales to the private sector will also increase the hours during which alcohol can be purchased. The likely outcome is that more people will die in a province where too many of our loved-ones are already dying from alcohol-related traffic accidents. If you drive, this is your issue.
The Wall government says this issue is about choice. In truth, they’re using an emotional argument that we’d hesitate to question and they aren’t supporting their position with facts, figures or research. The idea to divest themselves of an asset we all own comes when oil revenues have dwindled. We need to be making money instead of selling off the means to earn it. The public’s safety in regards to this policy change has not been discussed. Furthermore, the government’s logic behind job creation is tipsy at best.
Like I said at the beginning, it’s easy not to care, but the price of apathy is high because we all stand to lose. This is your issue. I strongly urge you to speak with your MLA Doug Steele. Mr. Steele works for you. He passed the job interview April 4 now put him to work protecting your interests.

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