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A large majority of Quebecers support the liberalization of wine sales

Montreal, April 27, 2017 – While the government is studying various ways of ending the SAQ’s monopoly, a Leger poll commissioned by the MEI shows that a large majority of Quebecers support at least two specific aspects of the liberalization of the province’s alcohol market.

According to the poll:

  • 71% of Quebecers agree that independent merchants (for example, restaurant owners, wine merchants) should be able to import wine freely and sell it directly to consumers, without having to go through the SAQ.
  • 84% agree that Quebecers should be able to buy wine in Canada, or elsewhere, without having to go through the SAQ.

“The results of this poll are clear, strong, and unequivocal, and should give political decision-makers something to chew on. Liberalizing the sale of wine and spirits is indeed strongly supported by Quebecers, regardless of age, gender, or political affiliation,” says Michel Kelly-Gagnon, President and CEO of the MEI.

“Rather than getting bogged down again in the rather sterile debate over privatizing the SAQ, we should move forward now with liberalization, since there is a large consensus on this option, in addition to being economically beneficial in terms of freedom to trade and to consume.”

The MEI proposes liberalization

Along with this poll, the MEI is today publishing a Viewpoint proposing the liberalization of the alcohol market in Quebec.

According to this proposal, the government would allow small retailers to sell any kind of wine freely. These wine shops could import their wines themselves and sell them in store without going through the SAQ or paying the associated markup.

The government would also authorize food retailers (convenience stores, specialized shops, grocery stores, supermarkets) to sell alcohol without restriction, as French and American grocery stores do, for instance. Access to products would be improved, notably for those living in rural regions.

“The number of grocery stores and other food retailers, some 9,440, is rather larger than the SAQ’s 844 outlets,” explains Germain Belzile, Senior Associate Researcher at the MEI and co-author of the publication. “They have longer hours of operation, too, so consumers would be able to buy their food and their wine at the same place, which would reduce the amount of trips taken.”

Consumers would be the first to benefit. “Not only would new players exert downward pressure on prices, but these many different buyers, instead of just one for Quebec, would give free rein to their preferences and respond to their customers’ demand for new products,” he notes.

Restaurants, too, would be able to buy directly from producers, and could pass on their resultant savings to consumers.

“This politically realistic reform would give Quebec entrepreneurs a chance to succeed in this market, all while increasing the available selection of products, and consumers’ access to them,” concludes Mr. Belzile.

The Viewpoint entitled “How to Liberalize the Alcohol Market in Quebec” was prepared by Germain Belzile and Mathieu Bédard, respectively Senior Associate Researcher and Economist at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Interview requests: Pascale Déry, Senior Advisor, Communications, Current Affairs, MEI / Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2233 / Cell.: 514-502-6757 / Email: pdery@iedm.org

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