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BC Liberals skeptical of report linking liquor reforms to higher prices

B.C. Liberals Richmond-Steveston candidate John Yap disputes NDP-commissioned report on increased beer, wine and spirit prices at stores.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro File

The man responsible for the B.C. Liberals’ sweeping liquor reforms in 2015 disputes that a new wholesale pricing model for stores has led to double-digit price increases.

New Democratic Party candidate David Eby showed Metro a report he commissioned tracking the prices of 156 randomly selected products at BC Liquor Stores since the reforms were implemented.

Of those products, the report found the average price of beer increased 13.3 per cent, wine 11.6 per cent and spirits 10.7 per cent.

The increases coincide with a 10.2 per cent increase in revenues to government from liquor sales, leading Eby to dub the new pricing model as a hidden “beer tax.”

But John Yap, the Liberal candidate for Richmond-Steveston who was the parliamentary secretary for the government’s liquor reforms, told Metro on Monday he doesn’t believe the report is indicative of all prices at the Liquor Distribution Branch.

Fluctuations in price are likely more indicative of market conditions, Yap believes.

“I believe that overall, on average, prices have been relatively stable. I will remain to be convinced there have been anywhere near that kind of a price increase,” Yap said, critiquing the NDP report’s methodology. “On some products it’s the same, on some it’s gone down and a few have gone up. It really depends on the product, brand and how supply and demand plays out.”

Increased revenues are attributed to growing markets, not orchestrated price hikes, he added.

But because the LDB, as a provincial public service, is unable to provide comment on the story during a provincial election campaign, it could not provide Metro with information to back up either Yap or Eby’s assertions.

Yap maintains he’s proud of the government’s record on liquor.

“The liquor policy review that I undertook was intended to modernize our liquor system,” he said. “We had heard from many stakeholders, people in the business wanting to see changes. So we brought out wholesale pricing. After some issues with the changeover from one system to another, it’s working well.

“I know [the industry] is in a better place because when I hear from those who are in the production side, or who are in retail or hospitably, what we’ve done has really reduced red tape, simplified their business practices and allowed them to do more business.”

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