VICTORIA - Liquor laws are set to loosen up on April 1 in British Columbia, but the province's attorney general says residents shouldn't expect huge price differences in their favourite drinks.
Suzanne Anton said Wednesday grocery stores can legally start selling alcohol in special sections of their businesses on April Fool's Day and government-run liquor stores can open Sundays.
She said the goal of the government's year-long modernization of its liquor policy involves offering more convenience for consumers and levelling the playing field for businesses, private and public.
At a news conference, Anton said the government will introduce a policy change to ensure every business pays the same price for the product it purchases from the government-run Liquor Distribution Branch.
She said the common, wholesale price will replace the complex model that offers varying discounts based on the type of retailer.
Uniform pricing will increase competition and erase the perception that government liquor stores have an unfair market advantage because they have been paying less for their product, Anton said.
She said she expected the government to still take in almost $1 billion annually in revenue from liquor.
"The number crunchers have been working extremely hard at this where they are setting the wholesale prices and they are setting them with the goal that the prices should not look too different when you walk into the store on April 1," said Anton.
B.C. Government and Service Employees Union president Stephanie Smith said the union supports Sunday openings and has been calling for extended hours to increase revenues.
Smith toasted Anton's announcement.
"The government seems to be listening to the public around what they want to see and also to the BCGEU, in that we've been asking for extended hours, the ability to have Sunday openings and also to provide refrigerated products in well-stocked stores with well-trained staff," Smith said.
In January, the government announced its support for 73 recommendations in a report to overhaul the B.C. liquor laws, including the sale of alcohol in grocery stores.
There are 196 government liquor stores, 670 private liquor stores, 221 rural liquor agency outlets and 12 independent wine stores in B.C.
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