The City of Fernie council is urging the B.C. government to put a moratorium on the privatisation of the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB). Council is hopeful that a moratorium will allow for more discussion and public consultation on the controversial issue.
Since the provincial government’s announcement in February that they were planning on privatising the LDB distribution system there has been a growing opposition from communities across B.C. Gary Werk, Area Staff Representative for the B.C. Government and Service Employee’s Union (BCGEU), spoke to council on Monday night about the issue and its potential negative impact on the community of Fernie.
“This decision was made without any business plan or consultation with workers, bar and restaurant owners, and other licensees, committees, or the public,” said Werk. “The sale does not just affect the communities with the distribution centres, this sale will have economic and social impacts on all communities.”
Werk went on to say the LDB brings in $390 million net revenue annually and that money goes towards critical public services such as health care, social services, and other community programs. He commented, “Without sufficient provincial government resources, responsibility for these services will be downloaded to municipalities. It makes no sense to sell off a successful, revenue producing government agency to a for-profit private company.”
Werk said liquor prices will increase and selection will go down. “Local businesses like bars, restaurants, and neighbourhood liquor stores in your community will likely face increases in delivery costs that will ultimately be passed on to the consumer,” remarked Werk. “The reality is that this privatisation will cost your community. There will be direct economic costs, and indirect social and health costs.”
The BCGEU also fears that if the government is allowed to privatise liquor distribution, the government retail stores will be next in line to be sold.