Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 31, 2017 - 3:50 pm

Despite support, uncertain timeline for beer-wine store openings: Nunavut minister

"The government is not bound to move forward"

JANE GEORGE
Here you can see the existing liquor warehouse in Iqaluit, which will have a beer-wine store as an addition, which is now under construction. The store, Nunavut's first, is set to open in July. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Here you can see the existing liquor warehouse in Iqaluit, which will have a beer-wine store as an addition, which is now under construction. The store, Nunavut's first, is set to open in July. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson, to the right, next to Monica Ell-Kanayuk, Nunavut's Deputy Premier, speaks May 30 in the Nunavut Legislature. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson, to the right, next to Monica Ell-Kanayuk, Nunavut's Deputy Premier, speaks May 30 in the Nunavut Legislature. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Unless you live in Iqaluit—where a beer and wine store is set to open this July—you will be obliged to order in your stock for a while yet.

Despite strong support from voters May 1 in Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay for the establishment of beer-wine stores in their communities, it’s likely to take at least two years—or more—for the Government of Nunavut to move ahead on opening the stores.

That was the timeline revealed in the Nunavut legislature May 30 by Finance Minister Keith Peterson, also the minister responsible for Nunavut’s liquor commission, in response to a question from Alexander Sammurtok, MLA for Rankin Inlet-South.

“It was non-binding plebiscite, so the government is not bound to move forward or anything on establishing a beer and wine store soon in either community,” Peterson said.

The GN first plans to conduct more consultations and add new regulations in the Liquor Act.

“We will also probably have to do some more additional consultations in the communities to talk about how the beer and wine store would operate,” he said. “I don’t anticipate that it will be something that this government will be able to accomplish.”

That mandate expires this fall in the lead-up to the Oct. 30 territorial election.

Among the issues to consider in the establishment of beer-wine store: the availability of a facility.

A building “would be a main priority” before moving ahead, Peterson said.

In Rankin Inlet, the existing liquor warehouse could be renovated and, according to Peterson, “it offers potential to be renovated to some degree to sell beer and wine.”

But finding the money to renovate could be a “constraint.”

And, in Cambridge Bay, there is no similar warehouse that could be renovated.

The GN has to fund beer and wine store facilities through its Nunavut Liquor Commission Revolving Fund.

“So we will also be constrained by the amount of financing we have available,” he said. “We don’t want to go to the Government of Nunavut seeking appropriation for doing renovations. We would try to do everything through our revolving fund.”

Asking for more money could be be dicey: Last year, Nunavut’s MLA for Iqaluit-Sinaa and former health and justice minister, Paul Okalik, resigned from cabinet saying that the territory needed an addictions treatment centre before opening a retail liquor store.

During this past February’s legislative sitting, Okalik continued to slam Peterson, saying the beer-wine store should not open without solid plans for dealing with the widespread challenge of alcohol addiction.

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