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Evidence of meeting #50 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was wines.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Hanspeter Stutz  As an Individual
Ivonne Martinez  President, Alberta Liquor Store Association
Rowland Dunning  Executive Director, Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions
Dan Paszkowski  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Vintners Association
Harry McWatters  Time Estate Winery, Vintage Consulting Group Inc.
Janice Ruddock  Managing Director, Winery Association of Nova Scotia

March 27th, 2012 / 4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, witnesses, for coming today.

First, to Ms. Martinez, I was in Alberta at the time when the industry was deregulated. I was just wondering if you could very briefly tell us some of the things that happened.

I know the industry grew, consumer choices went up, prices went down, availability of hours for liquor stores increased—

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

That's right.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

If I'm wrong on anything....

I was a criminal lawyer at the time, and all the things that people said about drunks on the streets getting alcohol at all times didn't happen. My understanding is that in fact nothing changed with regard to problems with alcohol.

Did anything bad happen for consumers?

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

In terms of increased sales?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

In terms of increased privatizing in Alberta.

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

The only part that was privatized was the retail side of it.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Yes.

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

The liquor still was regulated.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

That's what I'm talking about.

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

Absolutely.

There used to be 230 stores, I believe, in Alberta before privatization. Right now we have 1,200 stores out there.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

There were lots of choices and a lot of positive feedback as a result of that.

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

And a lot of access in Canada to alcohol from all over the world.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

I understand.

In fact, some people say I have a perfect life. I was born in Kelowna, British Columbia; I sleep in Quebec; I work in Ontario; I pay taxes in Alberta. It works really well.

4:40 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

My question really is this. I think, from my perspective, the financial aspect for Alberta liquor stores would get better. I mean, we have the lowest-cost liquor in the country. If people are able to order it from Alberta, and order online, why wouldn't they order British Columbia wine from Alberta?

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

That is the issue at hand. If people do that, basically they would bypass the liquor store owners, who would lose the sales and therefore would lose the profit margin. A lot of the stores we represent are mom-and-pop shops, where their margins are quite small. Therefore, if I as a consumer order directly from a winery, I don't have to go through AGLC. I don't have to go through a store—

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Why can't they order directly from a liquor store? In Alberta, for instance, we don't have a lot of wineries. Why can't they just go to a liquor store and order online from an Alberta liquor store in a competitive marketplace?

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

That happens right now.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

They could take advantage of the lower taxes. We don't pay provincial sales tax there, so we've got 5%. We are a competitive market, so it's much more competitive.

My point is that I can only see success for Alberta liquor stores, and I would encourage all liquor stores across the country to privatize. I think it would be a great move.

In fact, I will tell you that the number one complaint I have from my constituents is that they can't get two types of liquor. One is from Quebec, and it's maple syrup whisky. When they come here, they go over to Quebec and bring it back, and then they fly it back—Scott Brison shivers on that—and the other is Speaker's Scotch. I'm not sure why Speaker's Scotch is so popular, but....

I just think it can only be good for Alberta, and I think it would be good for the country as well.

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

Just to clarify, the wine, as stated in Bill C-311, is for personal use only—

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

I understand.

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

If you go through a store, it would be commercial use, so therefore it would be illegal.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

But they can purchase it from a retailer for personal consumption. That's my understanding of the act, and since the mover is—

4:40 p.m.

President, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Ivonne Martinez

That's right, and that's already happening in Alberta, so therefore Bill C-311 is not—

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

But the rest of the country as well.

Can I ask one final question, Mr. Chair?