North

MLAs still pushing for N.W.T. liquor profits to go toward addictions treatment

The Standing Committee on Government Operations has recommended to the N.W.T. Finance Minister that as much as 10 per cent of liquor sale profits be allocated to addictions awareness and treatment.

Committee asks for as much as 10% of $25M profits to be put into treatment programs

Regular MLAs, from left, Jane Groenewegen, Daryl Dolynny, Robert Bouchard, Michael Nadli, Robert Hawkins, Wendy Bisaro, Alfred Moses and Bob Bromley attend a session of the Northwest Territories legislative assembly last fall. The Standing Committee on Government Operations has recommended to the Finance Minister that as much as 10 per cent of liquor sale profits be allocated to addictions awareness and treatment. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

Should the N.W.T. government earmark some of the money it makes from selling alcohol specifically for addictions treatment? Some MLAs think so.

The Standing Committee on Government Operations has recommended to Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger that as much as 10 per cent of liquor sale profits be allocated to addictions awareness and treatment — a recurring idea the committee says has been backed by the territory's chief coroner.

"The perception of the people is that GNWT puts liquor profits ahead of concerns about public welfare," says MLA Daryl Dolynny, a member of the committee.

Last week, the Northwest Territories Liquor Commission reported alcohol sales of $48.2 million in 2014-2015, up from $46.5 million the previous fiscal year.

The profit realized from sales has averaged $25 million over the last five years.

                                                                                                                       

Fiscal year

Sales of beer, wine, spirits and coolers in the N.W.T.Profit
2010-2011$45.3 million$24.1 million
2011-2012$46.3 million$24.5 million
2012-2013$47.3 million$25.4 million
2013-2014$46.5 million$24.5 million
2014-2015$48.2 million$25 million

"Most or a good portion of our addictions are involving alcohol," says Dolynny. "And the committee has felt very strongly that a dedicated percentage — three, five, 10 per cent — should be taken from this [profit for] prevention and promotion. And yet, to this day, this is still not happening."

Dolynny revived the issue in the legislative assembly Wednesday.

Miltenberger responded that the government's health budget is its largest and fastest growing, and that the health department deals with a lot of the damage wrought by alcohol abuse.

"And we continue to spend — as this house will know from the number of supplementary appropriations we do for health — large amounts of our money on health care. A good chunk of it is tied to issues around alcohol abuse," said Miltenberger.

He added that discussion on the committee's idea will remain ongoing.

Justice Minister Dave Ramsay says this year marks the highest number of drug seizures and incidents of illegal alcohol flowing into the communities that he's seen during his 12 years as an MLA.

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