Proposed Privatization of the NSLC

Chronicle Herald/October 2010

Dan Leger’s article (Sleepwalking toward disaster?  Brison says it’s time to wake up, October 18th, 2010) wrote of Brison’s “novel ways to beat down the debt”.  One idea Brison had was selling the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, and through privatizing our current monopoly, to generate as much as $5 Billion.  His contention was that it would “dent the debt at no risk to the province, which would still collect taxes on every bottle sold”.   If only it were that simple.  Unfortunately, evidence-based research tells us differently.  If discussion of “risk to the province” includes alcohol-related injuries and deaths, then privatizing NSLC is clearly counter-productive.  

Our current monopoly, while imperfect, provides a mechanism for placing some restrictions on the pricing, advertising and access of alcohol.  Evidence-based research, including that of The Atlantic Collaborative on Injury Prevention inAlcohol & Injury in Atlantic Canada( 2010) points to pricing, advertising and access of alcohol being key areas to address to ensure that the culture of alcohol use in this province is not a dysfunctional one with deadly repercussions.  Privatization removes that mechanism and creates a wide-open playing field for the alcohol industry to do as it sees fit to increase revenues.   “Most global alcohol-producing corporations are public companies answerable to shareholders, with a very different set of national and international interests from those of public health decision-makers”     (Alcohol:  No Ordinary Commodity, Babor, 2010).  

For those interested in the economic argument Brison is trying to make, considering privatization of NSLC for an anticipated gain of $5 Billion, it is important to closely look at the economic reality of injuries in this province.  Figures of $518 Million for injuries in Nova Scotia for 2004 (The Economic Burden of Injury in Canada, SMARTRISK, 2009) tells us something noteworthy if we are further aware of the real link between risky drinking patterns and heightened levels of injuries and deaths, - Alcohol & Motor Vehicle Crashes, Alcohol & Violence & Violent Injury, Alcohol & Falls, Alcohol & Suicide (Alcohol & Injury in Atlantic Canada, ACIP, 2010, p.8-11).  

The over consumption of alcohol in this province is not only victimizing individuals, families and communities, but it is doing so at a cost that is crippling our health care system.  Any move we make that scientific evidence tells us will further increase injuries, deaths and overall health care costs brings nothing but risk to this province. We support Brison’s contention that innovative ways need to be pursued to “fix our fiscal house”, but not at the cost of those living within our Nova Scotian homes.

Shirley Ann Rogers, Executive Director