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B.C. liquor industry needs more competition, competition watchdog says


Ottawa – In an open letter to B.C.’s attorney general, the province’s interim commissioner of competition encourages B.C. to consider the principles of competition while it reviews its liquor policy.

Under British Columbia’s current liquor policy, private liquor distributors cannot sell their products to hospitality retailers, Competition Bureau Canada said in a news release. Restaurants, bars and hotels are limited to buying their alcohol products from government-owned stores at retail prices, as opposed to cheaper, wholesale prices.

This policy restricts competition, raises prices for consumers, and limits access to a wider variety of specialty products, interim commissioner of competition Matthew Boswell wrote in his letter addressed to to B.C. attorney general David Eby.

“The growth of new and innovative producers such as craft breweries has brought an influx of unique products to the market,” Boswell said. “Limiting the ability of these producers to access the market and effectively promote themselves threatens to stifle competition and innovation.”

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The Competition Bureau supports two recommendations made in a report commissioned by the B.C. government as part of the ongoing review of its liquor policy:

  • Implement proper wholesale pricing for restaurants, bars and hotels, and
  • Allow them to purchase liquor products from any licensed source in British Columbia, including privately owned stores.

The Competition Bureau believes these recommendations will encourage greater innovation and competition in British Columbia’s alcohol industry, leading to more choice and better prices for businesses and consumers in the province.