Several groups happy with Sask. government's move to privatize liquor stores

Several groups were pleased with the Saskatchewan government's announcement to loosen certain restrictions on liquor sales in the province.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation says new regulations would mean consumers have better prices

Jim Bence, President and CEO of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association, says the current provincial system around liquor regulation is so complex that it is too difficult for anyone to operate. (CBC)

Several groups were pleased with the Saskatchewan government's announcement to loosen certain restrictions on liquor sales in the province. 

On Wednesday the Saskatchewan government announced 40 stores will be sold to private operators, but it won't happen until after the next election (set for April). The announcement saw some groups celebrating, while others were disappointed.

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Jim Bence, President and CEO of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association, called it a huge step forward.

"I think what it has done is really sort of catapulted us from prohibition to 21st Century," Bence said.

I think what it has done is really sort of catapulted us from prohibition to 21st Century.- Jim Bence, the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association

Bence said the current provincial system around liquor regulation was so complex that it was difficult for anyone to operate. 

"What this has done is it stripped all that away," he said.

Bence said Saskatchewan is now one of the most progressive provinces when it comes to liquor legislation and that other provinces may be looking to Saskatchewan as an example.

The Prairie Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Todd MacKay, also praised the proposed changes. One of the changes would see all liquor stores (including off-sale outlets, government-owned stores and private vendors) operating under the same retail licence rules.

That levels the playing field for pricing, MacKay said.

"You've got one license, you've got one price that they're all dealing with," MacKay said. "If you forget to pick up beer before the Rider game starts and you have to pick it up at half time in the evening, you're going to pay the same price, wherein the past you would have got gouged, simply because regulations were poor."

While those groups consider the announcement a win, the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union considers it a loss. The union, which represents government-owned liquor stores, claims there will be job losses and losses to government revenue.

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