Saskatchewan bids farewell to public liquor profits
REGINA, Sask.—On Saturday, the last seven SLGA stores in the province will close their doors, bringing an end to public retail liquor in Saskatchewan. After decades of fighting against the privatization of liquor, the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) continues to denounce the decision.
“It didn’t have to end like this. There is no good reason that the government should be getting rid of public assets and jobs while recording a budgetary surplus,” said SGEU President Tracey Sauer.
“These closures mark the end of reliable jobs, public profits and quality service across Saskatchewan. These are opportunities that will very likely never return to our communities. My heart goes out to our SLGA members and their families at this time. This is a grave loss for the people of our province.”
For almost a century, public liquor stores have been a fixture in Saskatchewan communities, bolstering the local economies of cities and small towns across the province. They have contributed millions of dollars to the province's general revenue fund, which was used to pay for crucial infrastructure like education, health care and highways.
Minister Responsible for SLGA Lori Carr cited diminishing profitability as the reason for the closures, but that hasn’t deterred private retailers—collectively, they bid over $45 million on the 34 liquor permits that were up for auction last month.
“Clearly there is money to be made by large corporations at the loss of workers and public services,” said Sauer. “It is unfortunate that the province would rather give these opportunities to corporations like Loblaw and Sobeys, who are recording soaring profits while working people are struggling.”
SGEU Vice-President of Retail and Regulatory Bob Stadnichuk echoed these sentiments. “This province established Crown Corporations because it was difficult to get companies to serve our rural population,” he said. “If we wanted something done, we had to do it ourselves. For a government that supposedly values provincial autonomy and pride, it just doesn’t make sense to take everything we’ve built and sell it to corporations out of province to make a quick buck.”
The final months in the liquor stores were a bleak experience for SLGA retail employees, who were left working with low inventory and even lower morale after ‘fire sales’ left shelves empty.
“It was just the last in a long line of efforts to undermine the profitability of our stores,” said Stadnichuk. “And it won’t end here. We’re seeing the same thing happen across the board: education, health care and our other crown corporations are being starved of funding and privatized on a piecemeal basis.”
“Our public services belong to everyone, and we need to keep it that way.”
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SGEU Communications Officer
The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union has been working together for Saskatchewan since 1913. Today, SGEU represents 20,000 members in six sectors across Saskatchewan. Visit sgeu.org to learn more.