What has been described as a $20 million Christmas present for the province's private liquor stores was discussed in the government's backrooms as early as late September, Public Eye has learned. Before the holidays, the Campbell administration quietly made it cheaper for those stores to purchase booze from the government - increasing their discount rate from 13 to 16 percent. And the public would have been none the wiser were it not for The Times Colonist's Paul Willcocks, who broke the news in January. Now, documents obtained via a freedom of information request show a briefing note "re: increasing LRS (liquor retail store) discount to 16%" was distributed to senior civil servants on September 26, 2006.
In an interview, provincial New Democrat critic Mike Farnworth said he wishes the government had instead "been talking to the public" about the price break. "But it's pretty clear they've got the ear of the big box stores and not everyone else."
Government was unable to respond by deadline. But, in an earlier statement, Solicitor General John Les said, "rather than being a â€˜gift' to the liquor industry, the increased discount to private liquor stores instead serves to further level the playing field and that's good news for consumers."