Convenience weak excuse for price hike

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Five per cent jump at private liquor stores just another tax grab against rural Islanders

The decision to hike prices by five per cent at private liquor agency stores in the province is unfair and an added tax on rural Islanders. The rationale used by Tourism Minister Robert Henderson to justify this increase fails to hold up under reasonable scrutiny.

Prices for beer, wine and spirits at the seven liquor agency stores increased May 1. Mr. Henderson, the minister responsible for the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission, said the change was made on the premise of convenience. That argument is outrageous. It’s just the opposite.

The seven stores are located in Cavendish, Kinkora, East Royalty, Morell, Eldon, the Murray River area and Wood Islands. Mr. Henderson obviously hasn’t shopped at those agency stores. For example, a customer hoping to quickly get in and out at Mel’s in East Royalty or the outlet in Morell to purchase a bottle of wine for dinner must get in line while people ahead pay for lottery tickets, gas, cigarettes, groceries, snacks, propane or liquor.

If there is just one clerk on duty, the wait can seem interminable, especially during busy periods in the morning and evening, or the busy tourism season.

So where is the convenience here, Mr. Henderson? It’s an inconvenience that Islanders near the 18 LCC corporate stores don’t have to endure.

Using Mr. Henderson’s logic, prices at the seven private stores should be five per cent less, not more. Apart from Mel’s, all private stores are in rural areas of the Island, and it’s likely that many Mel’s customers are rural Islanders heading home after work in Charlottetown.

The rationale for setting up the private stores was to make access more fair since those areas were under-served for years and residents had to drive for miles for liquor supplies. Morell had the first private store in the province, established some 20 years ago, and the other six were announced in 2012. Now two years later, government decides to apply a convenience tax.

What about all the years when rural Islanders in central and eastern areas of the province paid extra in time and gas to shop for booze miles from home?

This is simply a tax grab on rural P.E.I. to subsidize outlets in Charlottetown and smaller urban centres.

The harried clerks at the seven private stores are usually overworked, likely underpaid and not trained properly as owners try to squeeze every nickel as profit.

So Mr. Henderson, when rural Islanders have to drive to Charlottetown or to the limited number of Access P.E.I. outlets to pay their vehicle registration fees or renew driver’s licences, will they pay five per cent less for the inconvenience not faced by their urban cousins.

It works both ways, Mr. Henderson, this idea of paying for convenience.

The minister admits the new pricing structure provides corporate stores with an advantage, especially for those price-conscious shoppers. Doesn’t he realize that rural islanders will now likely shop at corporate stores since they already have to be in urban centres for work, see their doctor or get prescriptions filled?

It will mean fewer customers and less revenue for the private agencies.

And finally, Mr. Henderson admits it was partly a revenue-driven decision after all. Profits from this price increase will be split between the PEILCC and the private agency. So rural Islanders will pay more taxes to government and more profit to private operators who offer bare-boned customer service now. The estimated increase in revenue for the province from this increase is estimated to be around $150,000.

That’s the price of yet another assault on rural P.E.I. The offer of more cash to the agencies is small consolation to their customers.

The LCC turned only a small profit last year and did not hit its budget targets so guess who has to pay to make up for those losses?

This ill-advised five percent surcharge must be reversed at once.

Organizations: P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission

Geographic location: East Royalty, Cavendish, Kinkora Murray River Wood Islands P.E.I. Charlottetown Iceland

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  • justin
    May 20, 2014 - 23:48

    It is VERY obvious that the writer of this dribble has never had any business experience in retail. Everyone knows that anything you buy at convenience always costs more then at say the grocery store. It the convenience you are paying for. The fact it is only 5% amazes me seeing how everything else in a convenience store is usually more like 20% higher then at another store which sells the products. Liquor should not be any different besides the stores are benefiting from the increase price also.

    • huh
      May 22, 2014 - 13:58

      here's the flaw in your argument: A convenience store owner charges more for a can of soup than Sobey's does because that's what he has to do to turn a profit. Sobey's can sell it cheaper because of their size and the volume of their sales. With the liquor scenario, its the government that is levying the fee, not the guy running the store. There's the difference.

  • Another tax!
    May 20, 2014 - 20:41

    I used to buy wine at Mel's; but NO MORE!! I will pay the extra to drive to a PEILCC store; or even better, buy my supply of wine and booze when I am in NB or the USA.

  • Lieberal Totaller
    May 20, 2014 - 18:59

    Let's remember this when election time rolls around and get these bloodsucking, plan b pork barrelling lieberals out of office. They waste every nickle they steal from taxpayers.

  • Pq
    May 20, 2014 - 17:17

    U can buy 60 beer (coors suitcase) for $62 plus deposit in Quebec and I'm sure they are still making $ on it! Atlantic Canada is getting screwed

  • Peter
    May 20, 2014 - 14:18

    To Whomever wrote this article, very well spoken. ' However, I think one very important point was overlooked. All other things aside, Mr. Henderson is saving about $13,000 per week, by NOT paying PEILCC employees. I may be wrong but the way I see it, each agency store has minimum of three employees working at all times. Six stores means 18 employees. At minimum wage (which I actually doubt), their combined salary would be $180.00 per hour. Store are open 12 hours per day, six days a week. Figure it out ... 172 hours at $180.00 per hour. That's (very rough and very low estimates) $12, 960 PER WEEK. I'm sure someone with the correct figures can elaborate on the actual savings Mr. Henderson is enjoying, but not mentioning to us.

  • itolduso
    May 20, 2014 - 13:43

    I am getting sick and tired of being taxed to death like this. You know people will just make the trip to the gov store as a planned trip or even farther to the main land on required medical trips and bringing home more booz because it is getting way to expensive here. You know all you are doing is bring in legalized boot leggers. I would be willing to go to a boot legger where the customer buying his or her drink is treated like a customer should be treated. Power and control is all this government is after. Remember Mr ghiz and Sharidon it is not you that is paying the debt or trying to ballance the budget, it is we the people and you know we grass roots liberials are getting tired of having our pockets picked by people that are over way over paid and way over compencated for your positions.