WINNIPEG — Milk, bread, eggs and liquor? Your trip to the grocery store could soon include alcohol.
The Manitoba government is proposing regulatory changes that would allow retail stores to sell liquor.
As part of a five-year pilot project, the province is hoping to modernize how Manitobans can purchase liquor and where. Currently, liquor can only be purchased from government-run Liquor Marts, while wine and beer can also be bought at specialty stores and vendors, respectively.
“Allowing the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba to license retail store operators would ensure proper oversight and regulatory compliance, while enabling retailers to offer new products to customers that would help grow businesses,” said Municipal Relations Minister Andrew Smith, minister responsible for the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation.
The proposed five-year liquor pilot project would determine eligible participants, the proximity and number of stores and display requirements for liquor.
Smith added that participating retailers would have to purchase liquor from Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.
The province says such changes would bring Manitoba in line with other Canadian jurisdictions, where the sale of liquor in retail stores is permitted.
Officials didn’t outline how liquor theft would be deterred as part of the pilot project. Manitoba saw a drastic increase in violent liquor thefts from Liquor Marts in recent years, resulting in the province introducing controlled entrances at stores that require photo identification.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) calls the proposed legislation “bad news for public services and safety.”
“Currently, over $316 million in profits are generated every year from the public sale of liquor,” MGEU said in a statement. “That money currently pays for important public services like schools, hospitals and highways. Privatizing more sales will redirect these profits to big out-of-province corporations like Sobey’s and Superstore.
As well, with the secure entrances, our Liquor Marts have put a stop to the brazen thefts and violence. Manitobans now enjoy some of the safest liquor stores in the country. This bill will open the door to the liquor theft and violence problem in grocery stores.”
The union suggests the province open additional Liquor Mart Express stores to ensure the safety and security of staff and customers.