By Suzanne Anton
Attorney General and Minister of Justice
VICTORIA - British Columbians are very aware of the prices they pay for their alcohol. Whether it's at a private or a government liquor store, you notice whether a six-pack costs you a dollar more at one location or a dollar less at another.
A new wholesale pricing system for liquor retailers comes into effect on April 1, 2015. As we transition, government is just as aware of - and sensitive to - the need to ensure that prices stay stable for consumers.
We want the price you pay to stay the same, or go down. That's why we have created a model that means, for the vast majority of products, the price will only vary within a few pennies either way.
Consumers don't see the current, complex model that uses varying discounts offered to liquor retailers. But as we move to a new model, it's important that what we're doing - and what we're not doing - is clear to consumers.
The new system will see all types of liquor retailers pay the same wholesale prices for their products. We are doing away with the existing complex model which offers retailers various discounts off the government liquor store price. What we're absolutely not doing is artificially raising prices.
In the simplest terms, under our current system, private liquor stores receive a 16% discount off the BC Liquor Store shelf price. This means that, for a $15 six-pack you'd buy at the BC Liquor Store, a private store purchases it for $12.60. That private store then marks up that price by whatever amount it sees fit to make a profit.
In the lead up to April 1, some critics are out there 'beer mongering', telling you that government has eliminated this 16% discount altogether and because of that, you'll pay more at the till. This is categorically false.
The new wholesale pricing model is set almost exactly at the same level as that 16% discount that private stores currently receive and applies equally to every kind of liquor retailer - including government liquor stores.
BC Liquor Stores expect no significant change to product pricing on their shelves in April as a result of the move to wholesale pricing. Private stores have always and will continue to set their own prices - that's the basis of a competitive market - so I can't tell you for sure where those will land.
What I can say is that by leveling the playing field and having all liquor retailers throughout the province buy alcohol at the same price, we are creating a market that has the potential for greater competition for your business.
As part of government's move to create more competition and level the playing field, BC Liquor Stores will be allowed to extend their hours of operation to match private liquor stores - including opening earlier, closing later, and staying open on Sundays. They'll also have the option of installing refrigeration units to offer cold beer and wine for their customers - something we know consumers will appreciate.
At the end of the day, the changes we're making are centred on providing more convenience, choice and selection for British Columbians.
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect