Election Primer: Alcohol and the Taxpayer

Let's help ensure that the issue of alcohol and our culture of consumption becomes an election issue by sharing what we know.

Alcohol and the Taxpayer

Alcohol-related harms have a significant economic impact on Nova Scotian taxpayers. Despite the fact that the province does generate revenue from alcohol sales, health, justice and other costs associated with alcohol harm exceed the amount of revenue, costing taxpayers $242.9 million in 2006 (Strang, 2011).    

Nova Scotian Children and Alcohol

Children in Nova Scotia are starting to drink alcohol earier than ever before. The average age of first use of alcohol among youth in Nova Scotia is 12.9 years, as compared to the Canadian average of 15.6 years (Poulin & Eliot, 2007).

In addition to the increased risk of injury, unplanned sexual activity and sexual assault associated with the consumption of alcohol, drinking during adolescence can hinder the proper development of a teenage brain. During adolescence, the brain is in a critical phase of development. The processes associated with brain development can be profoundly impacted by the consumption of alcohol and other substances (Hiller-Sturmhöfel & Swartzwelder, 2005).

Why is it Important to Keep Government Control Over the Sale of Alcohol?

The Nova Scotian government currently has a monopoly over the sale of alcohol. The privatization of liquor stores would allow for increased access to alcohol among Nova Scotians.

British Colombia has partial privatization of liquors stores. This means that the government controls some stores, while others are privately owned. A government controlled monopoly allows communities to control the density of liquor stores in their neighborhoods. After the partial privatization in BC, liquore store density increased by 56.83% (Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives, 2012). 

Government-run stores in BC have consistenly demonstrated higher compliance rates than private stores when it comes to selling to minors or intoxicated patrons. Privately-owned stores have a 35% compliance rate compared to 70% in government-run stores (Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives, 2012). Privatization allows a greater density of alcohol outlets (Treno et al., 2013) and less regulation of pricing (Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives, 2012), in turn granting youth greater access to alcohol. 

How Can We Protect Our Children and Reduce the Tax Burden on Nova Scotians?

Prohibition of alcohol is not the answer. Theissue is not that we drink alcohol, but how we drink and the age at which we start drinking (Brown et al., 2007). 


**         Maintain our public monopoly for the sale of alcohol.  Develop  the mechanism to include health and social perspectives to be given equal weight to economic perspectives in developing business plans and government policy.

**        Decrease alcohol promotion and advertising where children and youth play.

**         Develop a price structure so that there is a minimum price per standard drink in retail sales and an increased price per standard drink as the concentration of alcohol  increases.

**         Conduct a health impact review of the number and density of both retail and licensed establishments and prevent new provincial alcohol retail locations until the review is complete.


Brown, A., Cukier, S., Findley, E., Finnigan, K., Helwig, P., Hudson, A.,...Payette, T. (2007). Changing the Culture of Alcohol Use in Nova Scotia: . Halifax, N.S.:  Retrieved February 27, 2012, from Department Of Health Promotion And Protection website: http://www.g ov.ns.ca/ohp/publications/alcohol_strategy.pdf

Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives (2012, October). Saskatchewan’s Public Liquor System Superior to Alberta and BC private retailers in price, revenue and mitigating social harm: Report. Retrieved March 31, 2013, from http://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom /news-releases/saskatchewan’s-public-liquor-system-superior-alberta-and-bc-private-retailers

Hiller-Sturmhofel, S., & Swartzwelder, H. S. (2012). Alcohol's Effects on the Adolescent Brain - What can be Learned From Animal Models? Retrieved February 21, 2013, from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website: http://www.pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/pu blications/arh284/213-221.htm

Poulin,C. and Elliot, D. (2007). Student Drug Use Survey in the Atlantic Provinces

2007: Atlantic Technical Report. Halifax, NS: Dalhousie University.

Strang, R. (2011). Municipal alcohol project presentation (UNSM Conference). Halifax, NS:  
            Union of Nova Scotia Municipalitiies. Retrieved from http://unsm.ca/munici- pal-

Treno, A. J., Ponicki, W. R., Stockwell, T., MacDonald, S., Gruenewald, P. J., Zhao, J.,...Greer, A. (2013). Alcohol Outlet Densities and Alcohol Price: The British Columbia Experiment in the Partial Privatization of Alcohol Sales Off-Premise. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. doi:10.1111/acer.12065

For further information. please contact: 
        Shirley Ann Rogers, Executive Director, Injury Free Nova Scotia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.       This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (902) 466-0404