POLITICS

Saskatchewan legislation gives consumers better access to B.C. liquor market

11/27/2014 01:25 EST | Updated 01/27/2015 05:59 EST
REGINA - British Columbia's liquor market could be opening to Saskatchewan consumers under proposed legislation that aims to eliminate inter-provincial trade barriers.

Don McMorris, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, said Thursday that consumers will be able to have purchases of B.C. wine and craft spirits shipped to their doorsteps if the proposal becomes law.

"There is going to be some markup. That's how government makes its money to pay for education and health care," said McMorris, who added that the cost of a 750-ml bottle of wine would increase by $5.25.

"We have markup on all alcohol that enters the province in our liquor stores, so it just levels the playing field."

McMorris said the legislation, which he expects to pass in the spring, would also give some Saskatchewan producers the opportunity to sell in B.C., which boasts a larger market.

Officials still need to work out details and limits on how much alcohol a single customer could ship, he added.

"It would probably be a case," he said. "We do have to work out some of those details as far as maximums, but it is directly to the consumer as opposed to a commercial outlet."

McMorris said the proposal is a "win-win" because of a greater selection for consumers and the chance to sell products such as dill pickle vodka to B.C.

"There would be some shipping costs, but as a consumer, if you wanted to follow through, you (would) have the ability to now."

The minister released a paper last month looking at the future of liquor retailing within Saskatchewan. It suggested everything from the status quo to expanded government involvement to Alberta-style, fully private retailers.

McMorris said the paper is open for comment online until Jan. 30 and he expects a high level of public interest. The government wants to have a firm position prior to the next election, which is expected in April 2016.

Saskatchewan introduced private wine stores in 2009 and more recently approved four private liquor outlets.

In the throne speech last in October, the government reaffirmed its commitment to move away from building Crown liquor stores.