COVID-19 could end the SAQ’s monopoly. In fact, a member from British Columbia has just introduced a private bill to allow businesses to sell alcoholic products online, not just in their own province, but across the country. Finally!
Many Canadians are fed up with provincial liquor laws that prevent many from buying wine, beer and spirits directly from beverage producers in other parts of the country. The private bill introduced by Dan Albas, the member in question, seeks to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act to allow direct sales to consumers of beer and wine from outside the province.
If Mr. Albas’ proposal is adopted, the bill would prohibit Canada Post, which is federally regulated, from refusing direct delivery to consumers of beer, wine or spirits originating in another province. But the provinces would have the right not to adhere to the new law. On the other hand, if a province opted for the ban, such a policy would also go both ways. The winemakers, brewers and others in this province could not sell their products to consumers outside of it. A provincial government would therefore have the heavy task of explaining to its citizens why it is banking on protectionism.
The decision to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers that prevent the free flow of alcohol in Canada should have been taken a long time ago. Canada is a real pity in this regard. The benefit of giving our struggling winemakers, craft brewers and distillers direct access to consumers through Canada Post should be obvious to all parliamentarians and governments across the country. Providing more choices for consumers should be a priority across Canada.
Selling online across the world is not a rarity either. The global online alcohol market was estimated at $ 35 billion in 2020, according to an industry assessment. The Canadian market, meanwhile, was worth $ 350 to $ 400 million last year, an increase of 60 to 70% compared to 2019, again according to an estimate from merchants in the sector. Online sales represent an incredible opportunity for Quebec producers, who could bypass the SAQ and sell anywhere in Canada, and why not! In other words, the SAQ’s monopoly would be undermined all at once.
Since the start of the pandemic, online food sales have exploded. Most supermarket chains have seen their online sales grow by at least 150% on average. The same goes for catering. In fact, many restaurateurs owe their survival to e-commerce and delivery services, which are very popular.
But of all the liquor companies in Canada, the SAQ is probably the one that most demonstrates its desire to protect its assets. In the fall, she sent a letter to wineries, brewers and others sending them a warning. This letter mentioned that “under Quebec law, sales transactions between a supplier or producer of alcoholic beverages based in another Canadian province and a resident of Quebec are illegal”.
So, while electronic commerce democratizes online food shopping, the SAQ does not want to know anything about a freer pan-Canadian market. And it is Quebecers who will pay.