When the provincial government announced it would be closing four public liquor stores in rural Saskatchewan, it claimed it was for financial reasons.
But shutting down stores in small town Saskatchewan doesn’t make economic sense.
The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) stores slated for closure in Ituna, Langenburg, Kerrobert and Ponteix provide solid financial returns. The stores generated over $900,000 in net income in 2012–13. That’s money that can be used to fund the services we all care about, like hospitals, schools, highways and long-term care homes.
The government decision – made without warning or consultation – to close these stores will hurt economies in those rural areas. Closing these stores means taking good, family-supporting jobs out of small towns.
The government plans to license franchises to replace stores, but since most franchises are located in existing businesses, the lost jobs will likely never be replaced.
SLGA employees shop at local stores, pay local taxes and help keep other institutions open, like schools. The economic reality is that for every two public sector jobs in rural Saskatchewan, a third spin-off job is created.
Closing rural liquor stores seems more like an ideologically-motivated decision to privatize public liquor sales, than a plan grounded in logic and common sense. How many more small town residents will be shocked to learn that their public liquor store will be shut down, despite the financial viability of the service and the positive economic spin-offs for the community?
SGEU SLGA Negotiating Committee