GN repatriates liquor

Iqaluit may order from Rankin, Rankin from Iqaluit


All Nunavut residents, as long as they live where alcohol is legal, may now buy liquor from within Nunavut, thanks to a new liquor distribution centre that opened for business in Rankin Inlet on Jan. 28.

This means that Iqaluit residents may now order liquor — without an import permit — from Rankin Inlet.

Rankin Inlet residents will not have walk-in, retail access to the new liquor warehouse in their community, but they are still free to order from the warehouse in Iqaluit.

Since April 1, 1999, when division of the territories cut off access to the Yellowknife liquor store, Iqaluit residents who wanted to buy booze legally have been required to get an import permit before ordering from either Yellowknife or a southern centre like Ottawa or Montreal.

Leona Aglukkaq, Nunavut’s finance minister, said that, as time goes by, the government hopes to collect liquor sale money that, until recently, has been diverted to the Northwest Territories and other jurisdictions.

“Down the road, we’re hoping that more and more of the money will be spent in Nunavut,” Aglukkaq said.

Aglukkaq also said Nunavut’s entire liquor management system has now been completely repatriated from the Government of the Northwest Territories. Until recently, much of that job was done by the GNWT’s liquor operation in Hay River, under a contract with the Nunavut government.

But since last summer, the GN has gradually moved those functions into its new centre in Rankin Inlet, which will house Nunavut Liquor Management’s head office.

“Nunavut Liquor Management” is an administrative unit under the Department of Finance. It’s in charge of the purchase, storage and distribution of liquor, as well as liquor licencing and enforcement, and the Nunavut Liquor Commission, which does the actual sales.

Located in leased space that used to accommodate Rankin Inlet’s mini-mall, the Rankin Inlet facility will employ six people. Aglukkaq said five of those six jobs have already been filled.

Each warehouse will sell directly to local licenced restaurants, clubs and bars, and to local people with special occasion permits, but not to walk-in retail customers.

Private individuals in any community outside of Rankin Inlet or Iqaluit, and where the possession of liquor is permitted, may order from the warehouse of their choice.

Customers must pay the liquor commission before any product is shipped to them. That includes the price of the product, plus a shipping and handling fee of $5.35 per box, and a bottle deposit return fee.

Customers are also responsible for paying air freight costs. As an example, the liquor commission estimates that it costs about $35 to send four litres of wine and one 750 ml bottle of hard liquor to Rankin Inlet from Iqaluit.

In the five non-restricted communities — Rankin Inlet, Iqaluit, Bathurst Inlet, Taloyoak and Grise Fiord — residents may buy as much as they want, whenever they want.

In the 12 “restricted” communities, residents are free to order liquor from either warehouse, but need the approval of a local alcohol education committee, which may set limits on the size of their order, or even deny their application.

Those restricted communities are: Arctic Bay, Baker Lake, Qikiqtarjuaq, Cambridge Bay, Cape Dorset, Chesterfield Inlet, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Pond Inlet, Repulse Bay and Resolute Bay.

The possession of liquor will continue to be illegal in Nunavut’s eight dry communities: Arviat, Coral Harbour, Gjoa Haven, Kimmirut, Pangnirtung, Kugaaruk, Sanikiluaq and Whale Cove.

Under the GN’s first decentralization scheme, inherited from the Nunavut Implementation Commission, Nunavut’s second liquor warehouse and liquor management headquarters were to be located in Gjoa Haven.

But during the life of the last government, GN officials backed away from the plan, for two reasons: Gjoa Haven is a dry community, and is not an airline hub, making shipping extremely difficult and expensive.

After Nunavut was created on April 1, 1999, numerous Nunavut residents found they couldn’t easily order booze from Yellowknife, as they had done prior to division.

Residents in Kitikmeot and Kivalliq complained about the high cost of ordering from faraway Iqaluit, and Iqaluit residents complained about having to get import permits to buy liquor from outside of the territory

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