End the liquor monopoly

Manitoba has had a liquor monopoly since 1878. Since then, the world has changed dramatically: unfortunately, one thing has not changed much: Manitobans are still treated in a paternalistic way when it comes to being able to make their own decisions regarding alcohol.

I think it’s about time that the liquor monopoly in this province comes to an end. Here are a few reasons why:

The liquor monopoly denies you choices:

Because of the limited nature of the monopoly, there are many different options that we are missing out on. Manitobans are denied options that are available to people in many parts of the world.

The liquor monopoly takes money out of your pocket:

Because the monopoly limits your choices, you pay more for alcohol than in a free system. Every time you purchase alcohol, you are paying well above the market price. Considering the high taxes we already pay in this province, the liquor monopoly takes even more cash out of your pockets.

The liquor monopoly limits job opportunities:

Manitobans are hardworking and creative. Given the opportunity, Manitobans could create amazing businesses and new jobs in the liquor market. The liquor mart could still continue to operate and protect current jobs.

The liquor monopoly isn’t what government should focus on:

There are areas where the government should be involved. Healthcare, education, and infrastructure are among them. But running a liquor monopoly? There is no reason why the province should be in control of the liquor market. It should be left up to individual Manitobans and job creators.

The liquor monopoly gives too much authority to a few:

The problem that often arises with monopolies is that power is concentrated in the hands of a few. This leads to an institution that is both unresponsive to changes in society, and that implements terrible policies: The liquor monopoly in this province is no exception. Here is a rundown of a few questionable policies and decisions from the monopoly’s past, courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press:

1928: Men and women are banned from drinking together in the same room. Aboriginal people and those under 21 are not allowed to enter licensed premises.
1955: The liquor monopoly increased serving hours, but Aboriginal people were not yet allowed on licensed premises. Liquor stores also tracked the addresses and names of those who purchased alcohol.
1971: It took until 1971 before women were allowed to work at stores run by the liquor monopoly for the first time.
1979: Manitobans are permitted to drink while standing.
1985: It took all the way until 1985 before the liquor monopoly ended their ban on First Nations citizens being able to drink on and off reserves.
2005: Responding to safety concerns, Manitobans are allowed to bring their drinks into the washroom with them.

Notice a trend here? The idea seems to be that Manitobans are allowed to do only what the liquor monopoly tells them. This is a profoundly disrespectful attitude, as it implies that Manitobans are unable to make their own decisions and need the liquor monopoly to keep them in line. The past lack of equal rights is also clear, as Aboriginal people and women were denied equal rights for a very long time under the liquor monopoly. This is part of the problem of concentrating power in a monopoly. A few people get to decide for everyone else, and people are denied the right to make their own choices.

The time for this line of thinking is long past. Adult Manitobans should be trusted to make their own choices, and should be treated with respect, not paternalism.

It should be noted that there has been progress – however slow – towards giving Manitobans more choices. It’s time to take the final step and end the liquor monopoly in Manitoba.

Spencer Fernando is the Comment Editor for the Manitoban.