Iqaluit city council narrowly votes to support beer and wine store

Stalemate broken by Mayor Kenny Bell

City council’s support for the continued operation of Iqaluit’s beer and wine store came down to a tied vote. (File photo)

By Dustin Patar

Iqaluit city councillors and Mayor Kenny Bell voted to support the continued operation of the city’s beer and wine store past September.

Although this doesn’t guarantee the future of the store, which opened as part of a three-year pilot program, for some it’s a step in the right direction.

Tuesday’s city council vote also reflects how a majority of Nunavummiut responded to a territory-wide survey conducted earlier this year on the issue.

“Seventy-five per cent of over 800 respondents to the survey support the continued operation of the Iqaluit beer and wine store,” said Coun. Kyle Sheppard, referencing a CBC article on the subject from April 22.

“And over half of respondents indicated that it led to improvements in our community.“

Since opening, the store has been popular.

In 2018-19 it sold almost one million litres of beer and wine, accounting for 67 per cent of the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s revenues that year.

In 2018, halfway through the three-year pilot program, residents were asked for their input.

While residents’ personal reactions were almost equally split, with 43 per cent being positively impacted and 41 per cent being negatively impacted, 78 per cent fewer people reported that they had purchased from a bootlegger after the store opened.

The line outside Iqaluit’s beer and wine store on opening day, Sept. 6, 2017. (File photo)

On Tuesday, it was the current council’s turn to have their say, with Deputy Mayor Janet Brewster, Coun. Sheppard and Coun. Malaiya Lucassie all voting in favour.

“I’m going to be in support of this because I’d like the RCMP to crack down on … bootleggers that are taking so much money away from our people,” said Lucassie.

The sentiment was shared by Sheppard.

“The bootlegging activity, like the arrests made in Apex last week, is far more detrimental and causing far more harm in our community with the hard alcohol than I believe we’re seeing from the beer and wine store,” he said.

“I would definitely support keeping the store open as is.”

On the other side of the issue, voting against supporting the continued operation of the beer and wine store, were councillors Solomon Awa, Simon Nattaq and Joanasie Akumalik.

“I don’t think it’s been an improvement, as a personal opinion, but it would be a good idea to get some analysis on these, how much of an effect the pilot project has made on the community,” said Nattaq through interpretation.

Bell responded by offering to have the Government of Nunavut present data at an upcoming council meeting.

“I think the government has good documentation and they’ve been doing a survey a lot about keeping it going or closing, but I think they have a blind eye,” said Akumalik, referring to the opening of the low-barrier shelter in Iqaluit, which he attributes to an increase in alcohol consumption.

Akumalik also echoed Nattaq’s request for further analysis.

“I would rather have more documentation presented to us, rather than a discussion,” he said.

It was a sentiment also shared by Coun. Sheila Flaherty, who abstained from voting.

“I did not realize that this agenda item carried a motion,” she said when asked by Bell if she had a reason for her abstention.

“I need to see a motion in writing.”

Flaherty also requested that the motion reflect comments she had made earlier in the meeting regarding the reiteration of positive messaging about responsible alcohol consumption.

With one abstention, three votes for and three against, Bell was called on to break the tie, for the first time since he’s been mayor.

“After 15 years of liquor enforcement experience, I happily vote in favour of this motion,” he said.

With that, the motion passed and the city’s support will be conveyed to the Government of Nunavut, which will make the final decision regarding the future of Iqaluit’s beer and wine store.

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(23) Comments:

  1. Posted by John K on

    Well done city council. Bootleggers won’t contribute any of their considerable profits to public outreach and education efforts. This motion will ensure that we continue to divert funds AWAY from a criminal element that is a cause of so much pain and heart ache in our community.

    I look forward to Mayor Bell releasing what accumulated data he can. Facts will put us in a place where the opposition can stop relying on personal opinion.

    • Posted by Really on

      You know bootleggers don’t make their crazy profit in beer and wine right?

      • Posted by Obvi on

        @really…. that’s not the point that their profits are not made in beer and wine… you get that right??? They make it on liquor, which is available anytime of day and accessed much more often when there are no other options available or accessible.

        To have the option to buy beer and wine daily, and not have to wait or prepare weeks for orders to come up, will lower the need for consumers to reach out to bootleggers at all. Bootleggers who make their money off peoples 3am needs to keep binge drinking. They are scum, not honest hard working people. Let’s not confuse that.

  2. Posted by What a time we live in on

    What a time we live in where we don’t look at the data before we make a decision….

    • Posted by Data on

      You do realize councillors live in Iqaluit and get reports from the RCMP regularly right?

      • Posted by What a time on

        You do realize that not all issues related to Alcohol aren’t criminally related…

        Family services, income support, health…

        All Data that should be considered

        • Posted by John K on

          Why do you assume they aren’t? I feel like you probably have some preconceived assumptions and would only accept data that enforces your opinion.

          • Posted by What a time on

            Why would anyone asking for data to make the right decision based on facts have preconceived notions. If the data supports it good but if it doesn’t then maybe it’s not good. Preconceived notions are the Mayor breaking a tie and commenting that his previous role of liquor inspector make him an expert (check his record I know one community where a hotel got a permit to sell booze going against a plebiscite)

            To look at every problem you have to look at all the factors. Crime is the most noticeable factor but to say there are no other factors means you have blinders on.

            Alcohol can cause children to be neglected or not fed because their parents are spending their money on beer and wine. Has this increased?

            Has alcohol related visits to the hospital increased?

            Council has a responsibility to look at facts not just vote based on personal opinions

  3. Posted by Frosty the Snowman on

    “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion!” ~ W. Edwards Deming

    • Posted by Johnson on

      It is disappointing that a vote would be carried out without proper information for the Councillors to review and to make a educated decision and not a emotional or personal one.
      A decision like this is for the betterment of all of the people of Iqaluit, not for a personal choice based on what?

      • Posted by Iqaluit Guy on

        Fortunately they made the right decision (not that it’s really up to City Council…)

        • Posted by Nunavut Guy on

          And how did they make the right decision? No it’s not up to the city council but they are in a great position to recommend for the it to go ahead or not.
          Unfortunately a few of the councillors took it and used their personal perspective instead of looking at the whole picture based on information gathered for the beer and wine store. Too much reading for them I guess .

  4. Posted by Huh? on

    Ok let’s clear this up

    2 councillors are reported to think there was no data.

    3 councillors voted no – 1 of those reported to believe no data.

    1 abstained – because she didn’t have data.

    4 people voted yes.

    So we must assume 6 people voted with enough data to make an informed decision but you folks are saying there wasn’t enough data because two councillors said they needed more?

    I guess there is no making some of you happy.

    • Posted by John K on

      I’m confident that the opposition in this matter will only accept data that confirms their preconceived opinions. That’s why they are pretending the city has no data.

      • Posted by Johnson on

        Obviously there wasn’t enough data for the city council to make a informed decision, it’s unfortunate, I am not sure if this was done on purpose or just bad administration.
        Anyway the council and mayor made their decision based on what they know and the information (lacking) provided.
        I am hoping future decision making will be done better with complete information for review and not half cocked decisions being made.

  5. Posted by Northern Fender on

    So, 75% of the city supports the continued operation of the beer and wine store, but the council voted 50-50 before the tie breaking vote. Kind of makes you wonder who exactly these counsellors represent.

  6. Posted by Oscare on

    When r we gunna stop babysitting the residence of Nunavut and stop treating the population like babies. Everyone has a choice to either drink or not to drink. If we close the Beer n Wine store, its PROHIBITION and it does not work. Everyone has a choice to be responsible consumers of alcohol. Alcohol is not the problem, its the people.

    • Posted by Bird on

      When there are proper mental healthcare and treatment facilities up here, when there is proper help for residential school survivors, having programs and treatment in place.
      Adding fuel to the fire to put the fire out does not work.
      I know it’s more convenient for you to buy your alcohol and you like to have that but try to see further then that and look at what this place really needs and that is not more alcohol for this damaged place.
      It needs some fixing first and by creating more damage will not fix that. We don’t want to get used to all this crap and continue on like there is no problem.

  7. Posted by Darek B on

    People are going to drink. Period!

    They will either get their booze from the store (and pay taxes) or they will pay the bootlegger (paying more for it while not pay any taxes) or they will brew their own. Taxes can be used for local services such as medical facilities and family courts to deal with people who abuse alcohol.

    Without the store collecting taxes, the bootleggers will not fund such projects! So you will either have those who consume alcohol contribute to funding such projects through liquor taxes or all the taxpayers will continue to fund such projects while the bootleggers keep all that cash to themselves.

    As for the hard liquor vs beer/wine not competing with each other, just ask yourself what a bootlegger’s bottle USED to sell for before the store opened?

    In the end, just because I have a problem with alcohol, it should not prevent YOU from being able to enjoy a burger and beer to wash it down with on the weekend.

    If you say that my problem gives you the right to legislate it, then we should legislate how much sugar diabetics can buy as well.

    Responsible people will use it responsibly (be it sugar or alcohol), the irresponsible will have us all paying for the costs of dealing with their abuse (medical or legal). Adults should be treated like adults and face adult consequences based on the decisions they make. Remove the ability to make decisions (both the easy and the difficult ones) and you end up with a society of children incapable of making good decisions. You also punish those who are mature and are capable of making the right choices in how much sugar and booze they consume.

    • Posted by A on

      Thank you Darek. Your comments are meaningful.

    • Posted by Ken on

      Maybe it’s time to invest in treatment and mental health?

  8. Posted by Everybody else on

    Meanwhile, the phone number for liquor permits in Kugluktuk always goes to voicemail (busy or away), the Cambridge Bay office isn’t issuing permits during COVID, Rankin Inlet office won’t issue permits to anybody in Kitikmeot. Good luck.

  9. Posted by The Native on

    75% of the survey voted that the beer store is a good thing and we have Counselors voting against it.

    Hey Counselors you are there to represent the people of Iqaluit not your own agenda. The survey results are pretty clear.

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