New Government: What will happen in Manitoba?

Last month, a new Progressive Conservative government was elected in Manitoba after NDP ruling the province for 17 years.

I've been asked time and time again "When will the PC Party dismantle the liquor commission's stores?"

Honestly, I don't believe that will happen anytime soon. In this election campaign, only the Liberal Party under Rana Bokhari contemplated any changes to the status quo for Liquor & Lotteries.

Last week, Brian Pallister's new government announced the board appointments for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. Stuart Murray, who was the PC Party leader from 2000 to 2006 and Mavis Tailleu, who was MLA for Morris from 2003 to 2013. The new board members alongside Murray and Tailleu are staunch PC Party supporters  - which is generally expected when a new government takes over.. a new government certainly doesn't want remnants of the old government.

Will we see Manitoba Liquor Marts privatized? Possibly. If so, when? At first we will see the Pallister government holding town hall meetings about the idea. Brian Pallister, to me doesn't come across as a beer drinker so I don't feel like he's going to be overly pushing for MLCC store privatization yet, so that will likely start happening in 3+ years from now. I find that the main goal for the next two years will be developing and promoting a Manitoban craft beer strategy that will push for more breweries in Manitoba... which will help develop a craft beer tourism scene, hopefully bringing people who would never EVER visit Manitoba to Manitoba just because our beer tastes damn good!

So, say that Manitoba goes the Saskatchewan route and awards new liquor store licences to existing Canadian retail chains. I had a very mediocre experience in Regina at a Sobeys Liquor Store where the staff didn't know squat all about the product they were selling, they were sampling Minhas Watermelon and the cashier was snarky as hell. Sometimes the MLCC staff can be just as cranky as the Sobey's Liquor staff, but at every MLCC location I've ever gone to, I've come across a staff member who is insanely passionate about beer... EVEN in rural Manitoba! That said, I've gone to private beer stores in Quebec and the States with staff with just as much knowledge on beer - or even more. When/if privatization does happen, we won't likely see beer next to the soda section, instead we will likely see a separate brick & mortar liquor store like what Sobey's Liquor has in Saskatchewan or what Marketplace Foods has in Minot, ND. Well, then there's rural Manitoba - small towns like Pipestone, Souris, Glenboro, etc have small town convenience stores that sell liquor and a very limited beer selection AT the convenience store when there's no MLCC located nearby. So, there's that, but that won't likely make a difference in policy discussion in a few years time.

Will we see cheaper beer prices under the new government? No. The amount of tax markup to Manitoban breweries is going down, but we won't see the price tag change but breweries will be able to put the money back into the business - allowing them to do awesome one offs, upgrade their equipment and the like. But honestly.. $22ish for a 12 of Half Pints or Fort Garry is pretty damned good in this day and age, priced pretty competitively against Bud Light/Keith's anyways.

It will for sure be an interesting four years and I just hope that Manitoba's new government will be openly supporting the new craft beer scene - and hopefully even pushing for a craft distillery industry in the near future. I do know that politicians and political supporters of all stripes and affiliations agree that craft beer is better than Bud Light.

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