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Sask. government plans to sell all SLGA liquor stores, exit retail market

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The Saskatchewan government announced it is exiting the retail liquor market with plans to sell its remaining SLGA stores in the province during Wednesday’s throne speech.

The shift to full privatization requires the SLGA to sell its 34 liquor permits and its buildings that remain in the province, including five in Saskatoon and six in Regina.

The government has already privatized more than half of its liquor stores after announcing plans to do so in November of 2015.

“We’ve had private liquor stores across this province for years. All of our cannabis stores are private stores here in the province and they do quite well,” said Premier Scott Moe.

“We want to focus our efforts as a government on what people view as the core businesses of government.”

However, the SLGA will continue its wholesale distribution efforts.

“We’ve started with divesting the retail side of things so we’re going to finish that and the wholesale business is doing well the way it is,” said Lori Carr, the minister responsible for the SLGA.

More than 350 SLGA workers will be impacted, according to the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU).

Bob Stadnichuk has been working at an SLGA liquor store for 14 years. He believes he will be out of a job like many of his colleagues.

“It’s a really tough day for us. We really don’t know how to react yet,” said Stadnichuk, who is also the VP of SGEU’s retail regulatory sector.

Stadnichuk said some senior employees will be able to find other jobs within the SLGA. However, most will have to settle for jobs in the private sector.

“The other jobs in the private sector are traditionally minimum wage, low paying, they don’t offer benefits, and they don’t offer any kind of stability for their jobs,” he said.

The premier was unclear on what the transition phase for employees will look like, but he said the impacted workers will have the opportunity to bid on the retail liquor licenses.

The official opposition questioned what supports, if any, would be offered to workers.

Nathaniel Teed, NDP MLA and SLGA critic, said the government should not be cutting jobs during what he calls an “affordability crisis.”

“These are stores that are paying living wages so we do not support the shut down of these stores,” Teed said.

Carr said the government will work with the union and the workers. She added a detailed plan regarding the liquor store sales will be announced in the near future.

According to Carr, the number of liquor permits and the rules around operation will remain the same.

“Parameters are going to stay exactly the same with the matrix that we have with only so many permits allowed per population,” Carr said.

Carr claimed services will not be impacted.

In every community that is losing an SLGA store, there is already at least one private or off-sale store in operation, she said.

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