Mothers Against Drunk Driving pans Manitoba Liberals' liquor privatization plans

The Manitoba Liberals' proposal to privatize liquor sales in the province isn't just bad policy, it's also political pandering meant to help the group stand out ahead of the 2015 election, the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says.

'Privatization of a public liquor system has never worked,' Mothers Against Drunk Driving CEO says

The Manitoba Liberals said Thursday they'd be in favour of a shift from a public to a private liquor system if elected. (CBC)

The Manitoba Liberals' proposal to privatize liquor sales in the province isn't just bad policy that could lead to more impaired drivers on the road, it's also political pandering meant to help the group stand out ahead of the 2016 election, the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says.

On Thursday, Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari promised to make that move if the party wins next April's election.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said the privatization of liquor sales would happen within the first year of being elected. (CBC)

Andrew Murie, the CEO of MADD Canada, said there are a number of examples in Canada and the U.S. where a move from a public to private liquor system had several negative impacts.

"Privatization of a public liquor system has never worked anywhere in the world and once you go private you can't bring it back to public," Murie said.

The Liberals believe the switch would be a win for taxpayers and allow for more selection and better pricing, but Murie said that isn't the case.

"When you privatize, the service goes down, the selection of the product goes down, but the most important thing is the price doesn't go down — in fact most privatization plans the prices go up."

Murie pointed to Washington as a state that moved to a private system and noticed a series of negative economic and social outcomes followed.
Andrew Murie, the CEO of MADD Canada, says switching to a private liquor system "has never worked anywhere. (MADD Canada)

"High degree of failure of private stores economically, high degree of theft, high degree of service to minors and there was an increase in impaired driving in those communities that were privatized and it didn't work," he said.

"The service that was provided by government employees of making sure minors don't get access to alcohol and reporting impaired driving and intoxicated people just doesn't happen on the same scale as it does in a public store. So you lose all of that for what?"

Murie also said Alberta's system has proven his point in several ways. While Alberta has "way more stores" than other provinces, it isn't without its faults, Murie added.

"The Alberta people pay more taxes on alcohol, higher prices than people in Ontario and yet have poorer selection, though they have more stores to go to," he said. "I think most consumers would prefer to go to a government store, where you get a wide selection and controlled prices."

Murie said political parties have tried to use liquor privatization to set them apart from rival parties in the past.

"We've seen it a couple of times now in elections, where at the start of the election a party that isn't doing well in the polls use this as a way to maybe [gain] traction," said Murie.  

"Quite frankly, liquor privatization shouldn't be a primary thing in an election; it should be focused on things that really impact people like hospitals, education, etcetera."

The Liberals have one seat in the legislature but have risen in opinion polls since the last election.

With files from the Canadian Press


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