If the Prince Edward Island public sector union was looking for reaction to their newspaper ads running this month, they got it.

UPSE is aiming to protect 150 union jobs, by telling Islanders where to buy their liquor. They’d like to see Islanders buy their booze at one of the 18 province run liquor stores instead of at agency liquor stores.

Seven of the agency stores have opened up across the province since 2012. The Morell Needs store is one of them, selling beer, wine, and liquor.

John MacSwain shops there. “I find it's more convenient now,” he says. “You can stop and get your gas, your beer if you're going out on the weekend.”

Manager of the Morell Needs, Alice Doughty, says business is brisk.

“The liquor has increased, oh, it's probably doubled our business in a lot of ways,”’ she says.

Ad campaign designed to protect liquor store jobs

UPSE ad campaign urges islanders to buy booze from provincial liquor stores. (Angela Walker/CBC)

The popularity of the agency stores is what is concerning to the UPSE. The union represents the 150 workers at the 18 provincial liquor stores.

UPSE president Debbie Bovyer says it’s protecting the workers.

“It became concerning that they would be chipped away one store at a time and start decreasing sales because people are going to private agency stores,” she says.

The ads point out the agency stores charge five per cent more and the provincial stores offer better selection with knowledgeable service.

Doughty does not appreciate the approach.

“I don't think very highly of negative advertising,” she says. “And that's what this is. You know, if you want to sell something, sell what you have. Don't sell what someone else doesn't have.”

The union says it's just looking out for the island economy and the convenience of going to an agency store close to home isn't worth it for Islanders if well-paid union liquor store employees ultimately lose their jobs. 

According to the Liquor Control Commission, no jobs have been lost since the agency stores were brought in. The numbers show while a few provincially run stores have taken a hit, overall sales are actually up. 

UPSE says it's just trying to be proactive with its ads.

For customer Courtney Peters, convenience ultimately wins out.

“It's shorter for me, than to go all the way to Charlottetown or whatever,” she says.