Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut September 13, 2017 - 9:00 am

Nunavut cabinet minister happy with response to Iqaluit beer-wine store

MLA asks questions about privacy of store registration info

STEVE DUCHARME
On Sept. 12, Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak asked about how the Government of Nunavut will protect personal information submitted by customers who register with the GN's beer and wine store in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
On Sept. 12, Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak asked about how the Government of Nunavut will protect personal information submitted by customers who register with the GN's beer and wine store in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

During the first day of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly’s fall sitting, Sept. 12, Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson basked in the glow of success given off by Iqaluit’s newly opened beer and wine store, describing the long lines outside the outlet as “unfortunate” but “so far so good.”

Nunavut’s Department of Finance confirmed to Nunatsiaq News Sept. 13 that sales boomed during the first four days of operation at the GN-run alcohol outlet—$100,000, or 10 per cent of their original projected revenues for the year.

“One lady actually suggested to me, why didn’t we do this sooner? Why didn’t we open sites in the rest of the communities?” Peterson said of a customer he met outside the store.

“One lady told me, something to the effect of ‘the government has thrown off the yokes of colonialism,” he said, noting that fears of increased crime stemming from the store’s opening were unfounded, at least over the first weekend, according to the RCMP.

“Everybody has a customer account, so we can turn away people who are obviously intoxicated or who are not registered… we will gather some good information going forward.”

But now that Nunavut has joined other Canadian jurisdictions that strictly control—and profit—from local alcohol sales, Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak said she’s concerned about the GN’s responsibility to protect private customer data, and wondered who will have access to it.

The customer account form, which all users at the store must complete, states the government will “share information with law enforcement as a way to reduce illegal bootlegging,” as well as “third parties,” Angnakak said.

“What organizations, other than law enforcement agencies will receive information concerning the beer and wine store purchases made by my constituents and other residents?” she asked.

“I’m not aware of any other organizations. The Nunavut Liquor Commission collects information and they have work relationships with the RCMP,” Peterson said.

He added that large and frequent alcohol permit orders, placed by residents who are suspected of bootlegging, were traditionally handed off to the RCMP by the liquor commission.

But with the store’s limit of 12 beers, or a case, and two bottles of wine a day, Peterson said “I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.”

Angnakak also cited recent news from the Ontario government, which announced Sept. 8 that the LCBO, or Liquor Control Board of Ontario, would get a monopoly over cannabis sales after the federal government legalizes cannabis, subject to limits, on July 1, 2018.

Ontario said they would do this through a network of standalone cannabis-only stores and would prevent people from purchasing cannabis and alcohol together.

But Peterson said the outgoing Nunavut government will leave that issue to the next government, which will form after the October territorial election.

“The government does not have a position on selling cannabis at the beer and wine store,” Peterson said.

In its proposed cannabis legislation, the federal government will give territories and provinces the power to decide how cannabis should be distributed and to set the minimum age for legal possession.

Peterson acknowledged that time is running out before the July 1, 2018, deadline for cannabis legalization that Ottawa is imposing.

“There’s a lot of good work and hard work that’s going to have to be done to pass that legislation to be ready for July 1, 2018, and that includes figuring out the distribution network for Nunavut,” Peterson said.

Earlier, Angnakak pressed the government for accountability as it analyzes data over the three-year “pilot project” stage of the beer and wine store, in a measured member’s statement to fellow MLAs which acknowledged both strong opposition and support for the store.

“If evidence demonstrates that [the store’s] opening succeeds in reducing [binge drinking, bootlegging and alcohol abuse], then we should all have an open mind about allowing it to continue operating,” Angnakak said.

“If the problems associated with alcohol abuse are getting worse as a consequence of the store’s operations, then perhaps we would have to be prepared to shut it down and return to the previous system.”

The final sitting of Nunavut’s fourth assembly is scheduled to last until Sept. 19.

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