A campaign to keep the sale of liquor public in Manitoba is being launched Monday — and it's no coincidence that it's happening in the middle of an election campaign.
"Our goal of it is to raise awareness on the dangers of selling our [public] liquor stores and to make sure that Manitobans are more understanding of what is really in jeopardy under a privatized system," said Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government Employees Union, one of 12 organizations launching the Keeping Liquor Public campaign.
Gawronsky said the group's biggest concern with privatizing liquor sales in the province is that it would mean a loss of revenue for other services in Manitoba, such as health and education, she said.
"It's worrisome if that money is no longer going there but going into the private bank account somewhere else in another province or another country," she said.
The Manitoba Liberal Party has said it will privatize liquor sales if elected on April 19. The NDP and Progressive Conservative Party have both said they will keep sales public if elected.
"I think any time that any government starts looking at where they could possibly increase the income of the province but through a quick sale is something we should always be aware of," said Gawronsky. "There's no reason to fix something that isn't broken."
Gawronsky said the MGEU is working on a paper that will compare the effects of private and public liquor sales across the country.
"The social responsibilities with a private system definitely are not the same calibre that they are with our public system," she said.
Dr. Robert Mann, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said he studied the impact of privatizing liquor sales in Alberta.
"What we saw was that there were significant increases in the suicide mortality rate that coincided with privatizing the retailing of alcohol," he said.
Research in British Columbia also suggests alchohol-related mortality rates increased with the introduction of private outlets, he said.