REGINA – Premier Brad Wall says he’s “a little bit surprised” by a poll that suggests Saskatchewan residents are split on the notion of privatizing provincially owned liquor stores.
In an online poll of 800 residents, Insightrix Research found that 26 per cent of respondents said all stores should be government owned, 34 per cent liked the current model and 23 per cent supported full privatization.
“It doesn’t match necessarily with what we’re hearing,” Wall said Wednesday at the legislature in Regina.
“We’re already door-knocking, we have teams going out across major cities in the province, and so I’ve asked them to listen … for what Saskatchewan people are saying specifically about this, because we’ve asked for their opinion.
“It’s anecdotal admittedly, but it would match up probably a little bit more in favour of a private retailing system than that poll would show.”
The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.
Wall has mused about privatizing provincially owned liquor stores and said he wants politicians to talk to people this summer about the idea.
If people are interested, he said, the Saskatchewan Party might campaign on the idea in the next provincial election, which is expected in April 2016.
“I don’t think we would make this final platform decision exclusively on polling or public opinion, especially if we get a financial analysis done and it shows that we can make more money getting out of the retail business, that we can use the proceeds of the one-time sale for some important projects or debt retirement,” he said.
“I think we would still look at that.”
However, the premier also said he’s “comfortable with the status quo.” That means existing Crown liquor stores would not be privatized, but any new stores would be private.
The government announced last year that it was adding two private liquor stores in Regina and two in Saskatoon.
Opposition NDP Leader Cam Broten said there’s already a hybrid retail liquor system in Saskatchewan that includes public liquor stores, off-sales and rural franchises.
There’s no need to slap a “For Sale” sign on provincial stores to improve service, he said.
“What I hear from people … is that they can be annoyed about the selection, about the availability and the hours, those sorts of things. That could be addressed right away if there was the will to do it.”
© 2014 The Canadian Press