Nunavut liquor commission sees major sales growth over past year
Iqaluit customers are buying more beer and wine, and less spirits
The Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission saw its alcohol sales grow by a whopping 76 per cent over the last year, its new annual report reveals.
Nunavummiut aren’t necessarily drinking more, but Iqaluit customers are buying more of their alcohol through the local beer and wine store.
The commission’s annual report for 2017-18 shows that the per-litre quantity of alcohol products sold by the commission grew from about 570,000 litres in 2016-17 to more than 1 million litres in 2017-18.
That growth is, in large part, due to the opening of Iqaluit’s beer and wine store in September 2017, in the same community where the commission already generated about 90 per cent of its sales revenue.
But the report also tracked the change in what Iqaluit consumers are buying locally; the report cited a 350-per-cent increase in wine sales and a 73 per cent increase in beer sold over the last year.
“Results from the store are positive,” the report noted. “The quantity of spirits sold to residents and licensees in Iqaluit has dropped drastically following the opening of the beer and wine store.”
The NLCC recently surveyed beer and wine store users at the one-year mark into the Government of Nunavut’s three-year pilot project.
Respondents said they are drinking the same number of alcohol drinks since the store opened, but consuming lower-alcohol beverages, like beer and wine, Health Minister George Hickes announced in the legislature last week.
The complete results have not been made available just yet, Hickes said, but those preliminary findings suggest at least one of the GN’s objectives—to reduce the consumption of harder liquor—is being met.
In its first full year, the beer and wine store sold about 1.9 million units (cans or bottles) of beer and about 200,000 bottles of wine.
The NLCC paid $4.3 million for those products over the last year and pulled in $9.3 million in revenues from liquor sales.
The NLCC report also highlighted the GN’s harm reduction campaign, which includes limits to alcohol purchases and a media campaign promoting responsible drinking called Let’s Be Aware or Ujjiqsuqta.
With the opening of the beer and wine store, the commission also launched a number of tracking initiatives with health and policing services to monitor the impact of local alcohol sales on the population.
Early results suggest the store and the availability of beer and wine have not contributed to an increase in violent incidents in Iqaluit.
In early 2017, for example, the Qikiqtani General Hospital began tracking emergency room visits that were alcohol related and found there was no significant rise or fall in those visits over the year that followed.
Similarly, the Department of Family Services found no difference in the number of alcohol-related home screening visits in the five-month period before and after the beer and wine store opened, the report said.
City of Iqaluit officials, however, provided anecdotal observations to the NLCC, noting an increase in public intoxication around the community and the presence of litter, like cans and broken bottles.
In addition to Iqaluit, there are five other communities across Nunavut that have unrestricted access to alcohol, which allows for local sales: Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay, Grise Fiord, Rankin Inlet and Taloyoak.
Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay both held local plebiscites in 2017, in which residents voted in favour of launching local alcohol sales.
The report said the GN and the NLCC are still considering these results, but have yet to move forward on new pilot stores.
Thirteen Nunavut communities have a restricted system, in which communities have local rules and restrictions around how and how much alcohol residents can order, while six Nunavut communities outright prohibit alcohol.
The NLCC’s annual report does not offer information about cannabis sales, as they only came into effect in October 2018.