As Minister Responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, I would like to take a moment to clarify some misconceptions regarding the government’s business decision to convert four public liquors to rural liquor franchises as mentioned in Joyce Neufeld’s letter “Liquor store closures an about face for province” that appeared in the June 8 edition of the Southwest Booster.
Saskatchewan has long utilized a blended retail system. Currently, there are approximately 190 franchises, 440 off-sale outlets, and two full-line private stores in addition to the public stores, a business model long supported by the NDP. Store conversion is not a new concept. In fact, it was a practice the former government was quite comfortable with. In 1993-95, the NDP converted stores in Radville, Eston and Hafford to rural franchises. Today, all three franchises continue to enjoy success in their respective communities.
Converting stores to franchises, rather than closing the stores, allows SLGA to reduce operating expenses while still ensuring these communities continue to have access to a full line of alcohol products at SLGA prices. All of the stores being converted have operating costs that exceed what the government would pay in commission to a franchise.
Overall, SLGA anticipates an operational savings of approximately $1.2 million during the next five years as a result of the conversions. Additional revenue will also be generated from the sale of government owned buildings.
Regarding the suggestion that converting these stores will result in a loss of government revenue, it is important to note that regardless of who is selling liquor our government will continue to generate revenue through liquor mark-ups.
I am confident that SLGA will find a good business partner that will welcome the opportunity to serve the citizens of each community with respect to the sale of alcohol.
Don McMorris - Minister Responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority