Atlantic Convenience Store Association wants P.E.I. parties committed to beer and wine in corner stores
Discussions between association and P.E.I. government put on hold last year, association says
The Atlantic Convenience Store Association is asking all parties running in the P.E.I. election to pledge to allow beer and wine to be sold in corner stores.
P.E.I.'s PC Party has already committed to that. Leader Dennis King didn't give a specific timeline, but said Tuesday his party would begin work right away if elected.
Mike Hammoud, president of the association, said he hopes other parties follow suit.
"We live in a world today where consumers expect convenience and the simple act of being able to drop into a local convenience store for a bottle of wine or small pack of beer to enjoy with dinner is what convenience is all about," he said.
Areas of the province that did have more access to alcohol had more emergency department visits due to alcohol than other parts of the province that had less access.— Dr. Daniel Myran
The P.E.I. Liberal Party has a review underway to modernize the province's liquor legislation and the idea of expanding liquor sales to convenience stores is a consideration.
"Under the current conditions we have seen local success stories, especially with the expansion of our breweries, of which there are currently seven, mostly located in rural communities where they are creating jobs," said P.E.I Liberal Party spokesperson Mary Moszynski in an email.
The Atlantic Convenience Store Association negotiated with the then-Liberal government about expanding sales of beer and wine to convenience stores last year but those discussions were put on hold, Hammoud said.
"I'm confident that whoever wins the election, I think that they are going to hopefully want to ensure the P.E.I. market is opened up and on par with what the majority of Canadians will have in the rest of the country."
Health effects of more alcohol access
Last week, Ontario announced plans for the expansion of private market liquor sales with convenience stores the focus.
Right now in Ontario you can buy beer, wine and cider in select grocery stores and the local emergency rooms in those communities are seeing more alcohol-related cases, said Dr. Daniel Myran.
He conducted research while completing a master's of public health at Harvard and a public health and preventative medicine residency at the University of Ottawa.
"I was really interested in, looking at in this study, whether areas of the province of Ontario that had more access to alcohol had higher rates of harms from alcohol," Myran said.
Specifically he looked at emergency room visits related to liquor consumption.
"Areas of the province that did have more access to alcohol had more emergency department visits due to alcohol than other parts of the province that had less access," Myran said.
In 2015, Ontario allowed grocery stores to sell alcohol in certain aisles, some of the province decided to sell liquor in their grocery stores and other areas didn't. Myran looked at the areas where booze was put on the shelf.
"One of the major findings was that the areas of the province that did in fact introduce these alcohol sales had a six per cent greater increase in these emergency department visits," he said.
Party opinions on liquor expansion
The P.E.I. Green Party's main focus is on public safety and not convenience, but would consider expansion where appropriate.
"We need to be certain that public health and safety concerns are balanced against the potential economic benefits of such a decision," Green Party spokesperson Shannon Carmont said in an email to CBC.
Hammoud has a different view, he said increasing access doesn't always mean an increase in alcohol-related issues.
"Impaired driving did not increase years ago when the seven P.E.I. private retailers began selling," he said.
Seven year ago, the P.E.I. government moved to an agency store model which has eight agency liquor stores open in mostly rural communities in convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery stores.
In an email to CBC, NDP Leader Joe Byrne said the party would be interested in discussing the expansion of beer and wine to convenience stores.
But it would want to include the Union of Public Sector Employees — the union that represents staff at liquor stores, noting it would be counterproductive if an expansion of liquor sales creates a loss of employment in another part of the same sector.
More P.E.I. news
With files from Island Morning
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