“Private” Liquor Stores Replacing SLGA Stores in Saskatchewan

Alexandra Burnett, Commentary, Crown Corporations, Ian Madsen

Private liquor stores are popping up all over Saskatchewan. Almost all of Saskatchewan’s liquor stores have been converted to private liquor stores, except for a few remaining SLGA stores that will soon be turned private. However, these stores are still regulated by Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), where all wholesale liquor is provided by SLGA.

Cannabis has also fallen under a similar regulatory framework with wholesaling and retailing conducted by the private sector but regulated by SLGA. With the government regulation of marijuana, it is clear why many people are still resorting to the black market for lower prices for cannabis.

By allowing more private liquor retailers in Saskatchewan, this should create a more competitive market for consumers, translating to better service and lower prices. This is not the case when Saskatchewan’s government is still behind the scenes of regulating liquor stores.

SLGA has a monopoly position in Saskatchewan’s liquor, cannabis and gaming market resulting in far higher prices for consumers than would be if true private investors were involved in wholesaling. Divesting SLGA would allow for more competition in the liquor market in Saskatchewan, meaning lower prices and better service for customers. Alberta and B.C. are both examples of provinces that were able to successfully privatize their liquor stores. Both provinces abolished the government monopoly, created a competitive market and added jobs to the economy, although there are still government stores in BC.

Selling off all or part of a Crown corporation is ultimately up to the taxpayers through their elected representatives. SLGA does play a central role in Saskatchewan’s economy by distributing and regulating liquor in Saskatchewan, but it is clear that a private company could take on this risk and could even provide lower prices and better service to Saskatchewan residents.