Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 02, 2017 - 8:30 am

Nunavut communities say “yes” to beer-wine stores

Majority of voters in Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet support beer-wine stores

JANE GEORGE
Two Nunavut communities, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet, support the establishment of beer-wine stores, according to the results of a May 1 plebiscite organized by Elections Nunavut. The plebiscites came after petitions from local residents in 2016 asked for such a vote to take place.
Two Nunavut communities, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet, support the establishment of beer-wine stores, according to the results of a May 1 plebiscite organized by Elections Nunavut. The plebiscites came after petitions from local residents in 2016 asked for such a vote to take place.

(Updated at 9:35 a.m.)

Voters in Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay came out strongly in favour of the establishment of beer-wine stores during May 1 plebiscites in their communities.

In Rankin Inlet, 372, or about 74 per cent of those who cast ballots, said yes, and 127 voted no.

In Cambridge Bay 349 or about 82 per cent of those who cast ballots, said yes, with 71 voting no.

In Rankin Inlet, with a population of nearly 3,000, there are 1,311 on the voters list, so turnout was about 38 per cent, and Cambridge Bay, with about 1,700 residents, there are 825 on the voters list, so turnout stood at roughly 42 per cent.

What this means for these two communities is unclear because the results of the plebiscites are non-binding.

But those results, along with other factors, will influence the Government of Nunavut’s decision on whether to open stores in the two communities—as it did following a similar 2015 plebiscite in Iqaluit.

In Iqaluit, 78 per cent voted in favour of a beer-wine store which is expected to open this summer in Nunavut’s capital.

For Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet, this much is certain: a beer-wine store would change the availability of alcohol in these two communities, which for now, can be purchased with a permit from the GN or bought from another retailer outside the territory, with a permit. Residents can also bring in alcohol personally (with a permit if for more than three litres of spirits, nine litres of wine or 26 litres of beer) or buy alcohol at the hotel in Rankin Inlet or at licensed clubs in Rankin Inlet and in Cambridge Bay.

If set up, the beer-wine stores would operate six days a week from Monday through Saturday, from noon until 7 p.m.

No coolers or distilled alcohol of any kind would be sold.

There would be a limit of one case of 12 beer and two bottles of wine each day for each purchaser, customers would set up a permanent account at the store and photo identification would be required for all purchases.

Rankin Inlet has an existing liquor warehouse so the opening of a beer-wine store could be more easily managed there than in Cambridge Bay, which does not have a liquor warehouse, although a new building near the airport has been suggested by some as a possible location for a store.

Many in Cambridge Bay had lobbied on social media for voters to “please vote no.”

“Alcohol ruins and kills family. I’m experiencing this, and I don’t want other children in this community to feel the pain I’m feeling. Think of the children starving, or crying at night because of they’re parents/guardians drinking. It may be fun to you guys but for most children, its horrible. Alcohol just tears down families. It always will,” said one poster to Facebook.

But Keith Peterson, Cambridge Bay MLA and Nunavut’s minister responsible for the territory’s liquor commission, had told his constituents during an April town meeting on the plebiscite, that a potential beer-wine store would come with an information campaign designed to encourage responsible drinking and also legislation to discourage bootleggers.

Peterson spoke about the “Let’s Be Aware” campaign, launched earlier this year, which promotes the responsible use of alcohol in Nunavut.

And he highlighted Nunavut’s new Unlawful Property Forfeiture Act intended to undermine Nunavut’s estimated $10-million-a-year market in bootlegging, which many hope will be reduced if beer and wine is more easily available.

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