Manitoba government says proposed changes will make liquor sales more convenient

WINNIPEG –

The Manitoba government is hinting it may allow more alcohol sales through private channels to boost customer convenience.

Scott Fielding, minister responsible for the provincial liquor and lottery corporation, said he plans to introduce a bill Thursday that will bring Manitoba more in line with other provinces.

“We clearly know that Manitobans want a more modernized system. Anyone from Manitoba that travels outside the province sees that system in other provinces, ” Fielding said Wednesday.

He refused to reveal details before the bill is put before the legislature.

“Our focus … is really to make life more convenient for individuals. Providing more choice and availability for Manitobans is important.”

Manitoba has complex ways in which alcohol is sold. Government-run stores sell all types of alcohol, while a large number of private vendors at hotels sell beer.

There are limited numbers of private wine stores, capped at eight under provincial law. Hard liquor is sold only at government stores in urban areas and at private outlets in some rural locations.

The Opposition New Democrats said they are concerned the province may allow beer or other alcohol to be sold in corner or grocery stores.

“Do families, do communities, want their children to be able to go to a 7-Eleven, where there’s king cans (of beer) in the fridge?” asked Adrien Sala, critic for liquor and lotteries.

Such expansion could put private store workers at greater risk of robbery and assault, Sala added.

Fielding said the Progressive Conservative government has no plans to eliminate government-run stores.

He also said the bill will include a more gradual approach than one the Tories introduced in 2020 and withdrew last year. That proposal would have fully opened sales of hard liquor in urban areas to private vendors.

On Tuesday, the government introduced a complementary bill dealing with the licensing side of the industry. It proposes to simplify getting a licence and to make way for more seasonal patios and stand-alone beverage rooms.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

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