Response to "Nova Scotia Government needs to get off the bottle"

September 7, 2012 

Chronicle Herald, Editor’s Desk

Roger Taylor's article "Nova Scotia government needs to get off the bottle" claims that  we need to privatize alcohol distribution to make more money off its sale. He further notes that under privatization, the operator will increase volume of alcohol sold as part of increasing these revenues.  This economic argument has merit in discussing some commodities, but not alcohol.  Increased sales means increased excess consumption and increased costs to our communities.

As a province, we start drinking early, with a large percentage drinking often and to excess. Alcohol has taken a dominant place at our community table.  Despite all the education informing us of the dangers of drinking and driving, impaired driving rates and related injuries and deaths remain largely constant.  When we consume alcohol in risky fashion we pick fights, harming people and property, and when we do not turn our anger on others we turn it on ourselves, with suicides and other self-harm as the result.  And this is with our current consumption of alcohol.

Evidence and experience undeniably show that privatized alcohol sales result in even more consumption of alcohol by youth and adults, increased alcohol-related trauma, increased impacts on health and society and increased costs to tax payers.  Handing over the distribution of alcohol to private industry means that, unlike with our NSLC monopoly, we will have little if any access to control their methods, as they pursue profits.  Other jurisdictions that have tried privatization have seen marked rises in  injuries, deaths and property damage resulting from  unbridled consumption. Knowing what we know, the irresponsible thing to do is to promote economic gains in exchange for young lives and societal costs.

Instead of privatization, let's use our current government monopoly and discuss ways to balance the economic agenda while reducing alcohol-related harms within it.  After all, when it comes to addressing the issue of alcohol, - we are all in this together.