Nunavut beer and wine store will have to wait
Minister Keith Peterson says earliest start-up for Iqaluit store is 2016
Iqalungmiut will have to wait until at least 2016 for a beer and wine store, Nunavut’s finance minister Keith Peterson said in the Nunavut legislature Oct. 23.
Peterson commented on the controversial topic during oral question period, responding to queries from Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes.
Earlier this year, in June, the government registered regulations for the Iqaluit beer and wine store under Nunavut’s Liquor Act, Hickes said.
“Will the government be opening a new beer and wine store before the end of 2015?” Hickes asked Peterson.
“No,” Peterson replied.
“Can the minister explain why there are delays on this pilot project?” Hickes followed up.
“We’ve decided that before we proceed, we’d work with some of our fellow departments so that they would be given time to put programs and policies in place under the Sivumut Abluqta mandate,” Peterson said.
The minister added that the plebiscite held in April to gauge the public’s support — 77.5 per cent of ballots were in favour of over-the-counter beer and wine sales — wouldn’t have allowed enough time to open a store this year anyway.
“A beer and wine store pilot project is a bit of a sensitive issue for the City of Iqaluit and I appreciate that,” Peterson said Oct. 23.
In October 2014 the Government of Nunavut held a public consultation on the pilot project, which attracted more than 150 Iqalungmiut, many of whom linked the idea of a beer and wine store with the potential for higher crime and death rates.
But that was just the first step in the process, Peterson’s staff said at the time, and the overwhelmingly negative feedback would be given it’s “fair weight” in that process.
Neither the plebiscite nor the public meeting are binding, meaning they will not be the final deciding factor in whether the GN decides to open a store.
Earlier this year, the GN said it would help Baffin-region hamlets if the pilot project goes ahead and that could include providing more resources to local alcohol education committees.
The RCMP told Nunatsiaq News in February 2014 that a long-term decline in bootlegging could be expected if a store were to open, even though a short-term spike in calls to police might occur.
Although the GN hasn’t committed to opening a store in 2016, the possibility seems likely.
“Our government recognizes and respects the decision of the voters,” Peterson said Oct. 23, referring to the results of the April plebiscite.