Canada Dry? Nope, Alberta is Benefiting from Liquor Privatization

As lawmakers return to Harrisburg for the fall legislative session, liquor privatization will once again be a topic for debate. Fortunately for the people of Alberta, Canada, debate over whether to privatize liquor sales ended 20 years ago when the Alberta government decided that they would no longer be in the business of selling booze. Was it the end of the world? Of course not.

Mark Milke, a senior fellow with the Frasier Institute, gives an overview of the success of liquor privatization in Alberta. What did he find?

  • Product selection expanded from 2,200 items in 1993 to more than 19,000 varieties of beer, wine and spirits today.
  • Employment increased in retail liquor stores from 1,300 to 4,000 employees.
  • Most products in Alberta’s private stores cost less than the same products found in neigboring British Columbia’s government-run liquor stores.

This all sounds nice, but what about the supposed social problems inherent in privatizing alcohol sales? Aren’t government-run stores supposed to protect the public? Well, that’s another myth:

Finally, privatization opponents point to the social ills that could result from liquor store privatization. But a 2009 Frontier Centre study found that Saskatchewan, a province with a plethora of government run liquor stores and comparatively low overall sales and alcohol consumption rates, still showed the “highest, second highest or third-highest rates of alcohol-related harm with respect to friendships, marriage, work, studies, employment, finances, legal problems and physical violence.

The UFCW (the union representing Pennsylvania’s liquor store employees) tried to perpetuate this myth earlier this year with a risible ad claiming that if alcohol isn’t sold at government-run stores, alcohol-related injuries and deaths are sure to increase. But thanks to the recent evidence in Washington, in addition to the mountain of evidence already available, we know this isn’t the case.

Given the success of privatization in other states and countries, it’s time Pennsylvania joins the 21st century and ends the outdated government monopoly on the sale of wine and spirits, eh?