Your humble organ has written at length about the Campbell administration's decision to give private liquor stores a price break on the alcohol they purchase from government. But we're not the only ones curious about that decision. According to records obtained by Public Eye via a freedom of information request, New Democrat caucus research officer James Steidle contacted the liquor distribution branch in January, asking for more information "to help the NDP develop a (sic) official stance on the LRS discount." This, according to an email sent by branch general manager Jay Chambers to Solicitor General John Les's executive assistant Don Smukowich. But, in that email, Mr. Chambers writes he "will not call James Steidle back with the information he is seeking until I get the go ahead from you...If he calls back staff will say that I am unavailable."
In an interview with Public Eye, the general manager explained, "It's standard protocol for all ministries that any question from political parties is to go through the minister's office for direction." And why did he instruct staff to say he was unavailable if Mr. Steidle phoned? "I was at meetings all day," responded Mr. Chambers. "So it was just to explain that I'm unavailable and will call back. And I probably should have extended that (sentence) on and just said, 'I'm unavailable and will call back when available.'"
From: Chambers, Jay LDB:EX
Sent: Fri, January 5, 2007 2:06 PM
To: Smukowich, Don SG:EX
Cc: Curran, Rachel E SG:EX; Morhart, David A SG:EX
Subject: FW: PHONE CALL - Legislative enquiry
Hi Don - as per our telephone conversation I will not call James Steidle back with the information he is seeking until I get the go ahead from you.
He has called in with more details in regards to his request. They are, in his words, as follows:
- wants to know more information to help the NDP develop a official stance on the LRS discount for the the legislature;
- what is the difference in price for the consumer between public and private liquor stores?
- what is the LRS discount?;
- how/at what point is tax applied to the production of alcohol?
- says that people are construing the LRS discount as a government subsidy.
If he calls back staff will say that I am unavilable.