Montreal, July 17, 2018 – The employees of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) went on strike this morning for a maximum duration, at the moment, of six days. This walkout once again relaunches the debate over the future of the government-owned corporation.
According to Patrick Déry, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI, consumers are once again needlessly penalized by this labour dispute. “There is no reason for wine and spirits to have to go through a government-owned corporation before being sold to consumers,” he says. “Even from the government’s point of view, it makes no sense. The government owns no service stations, but that doesn’t stop it from collecting millions of dollars in fuel taxes!”
“A very simple solution would be to allow small retailers to import and sell wine without going through the SAQ monopoly. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retailers could be granted the same right,” adds Mr. Déry.
Such a model would foster competition, and would provide more choice for consumers. “In the context of a strike, we realize very quickly that this absence of choice for consumers is an aberration,” notes the policy analyst.
In addition to limiting choice for consumers, the government monopoly on importing and selling wine also has the adverse effect of making them vulnerable, for no valid reason, to the ups and downs of collective bargaining. “An SAQ employee earns nearly $20 an hour. Many retail sector employees would dream of earning as much!”
A Leger poll commissioned by the MEI in April 2017 clearly shows that Quebecers are ready for the liberalization of the alcohol market. Indeed, 71% agree that independent merchants should be able to import alcohol freely and sell it directly to consumers, without having to go through the SAQ.
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