I’m a proud Manitoban. Always have been, always will be.
I get that we have to pay taxes in order to keep the province running. I understand that money is supposed to look after infrastructure, health care, education, and more.
And I understand that we’re still, arguably, a have-not province, especially when compared to Alberta.
But the liquor prices in that province make me more than envious.
This is in no way meant to bash the MLCC, or Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, which is what I believe the melded entity is called now. The folks locally and at the head office in Winnipeg have been nothing but wonderful to me in the almost seven years that I’ve been writing this column. And I know that most of what I’m ranting about is out of their control.
But my husband recently went with a friend to Medicine Hat, and after consulting with me, brought back a bunch — and I do mean a bunch — of wine. I’m grateful that we’re now allowed to legally bring wine into our province from other ones across our great land. But as most folks know, people have been doing it for ages, whether they were supposed to or not.
And after this trip, I understand why.
Again, I get that Alberta (at least for now) has a below-ground advantage compared to Manitoba, and our liquor prices — or wine prices, since that’s what I’m focusing on — are in many instances actually cheaper than those in B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. (I haven’t had any direct experience with Saskatchewan prices in decades, so I can’t do a direct comparison with that province.) But I have bought wine in the aforementioned areas in the last two to four years, and I know we’re lower than they are.
So good on you, Manitoba. I’m grateful for that.
But back to Alberta.
First of all, there’s no provincial tax there, which is part of the issue. Albertans pay five per cent GST like the rest of us. But that’s where the similarities end.
Before one even considers taxes, the wine prices at the Superstore Liquorstore in Medicine Hat are considerably less than ours are here.
‘Case’ in point: The Show Cabernet Sauvignon, which comes from California, sells in Manitoba for $19.99 a bottle. As far as I know, we don’t get a break on a dozen-bottle purchase here. But if you bought a case of said beverage about a month ago, The Show was $12.59 a bottle. Add in the GST and a 10 cent per bottle ‘deposit,’ and it was $13.32, compared to $22.59 here once the GST and PST are included. That’s a $9.27 saving!! What?
The wonderful Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir, also a California product, is $25.99 here. Before taxes. In Medicine Hat, it was $19.49 a bottle. With the GST and deposit, $20.56. Here, with GST and PST, $29.37. That’s a $8.81 saving!! What?
My ongoing fave red, the J. Lohr Cabernet, is $22.30 here. In Medicine Hat, $17.79. Not quite as big a deal. But once taxes and deposit are added in, it’s $18.78 in Alberta, and $25.20 here. With the amount of J. Lohr I buy, I can’t ignore a $6.42 a bottle difference. That adds up quickly.
The Francis Ford Coppola Claret, which knocked my socks off at a family wedding a couple of years ago, is available at some private wine stores in Winnipeg for $29. At The Real Canadian Liquorstore, it was $21. Add the taxes and deposit, and in Medicine Hat, it’s $22.15. Here at home — well, in Winnipeg — it’s $32.77. A $10.62 saving!! What?
I know by now you get the drift. But the one that really blew me away was my favourite Champagne, Veuve Clicquot Brut. I’ll just add in the taxes and deposit so as not belabour the point. Medicine Hat, $51.54. Here, $77.96.
Need I say more?
I just don’t get that sort of disparity. Champagne comes to Canada from France. But in Alberta, it’s $26.42 less per bottle. I was stunned. Shocked. Speechless, even. Which for me, never happens.
But while I believe in supporting the local economy — doing so benefits me, after all — I’m also going to save some of my cold, hard cash if and when I can. So if you’re driving west, leave some spare room in your trunk. The savings may just pay for your trip. Or some of your taxes when you get back home.