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Alberta cabinet minister says has concerns over discounted four-litre jugs of vodka

EDMONTON — The cabinet minister responsible for Alberta’s liquor industry is calling out a four-litre plastic jug of vodka being sold for under $50, and says he is looking at intervening in prices.

However, the vodka retailer says while $50 is a discounted price, it’s a fair one and that government intervention in price-setting could threaten the livelihoods for small-scale operators.

Service Alberta Minister Dale Nally made his comments Monday when asked by reporters about a photo circulating on social media depicting the Value vodka jugs on sale at Edmonton Super Value Liquor for $49.95.

“That’s not very responsible,” Nally replied.

The jugs have plain labelling, displaying the words Value and Vodka over a plain yellow background.

Federal laws regulate alcohol labelling and packaging across Canada, and Nally said the jugs are in compliance.

“What it’s not in compliance with is the spirit of Albertans, ” he said.

“We believe in responsible pricing, and that’s where I think it goes afoul.”

Under current rules, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC)  sets the wholesale price that retailers must pay to purchase products.

Sunny Bhullar, manager at Edmonton Super Value Liquor, said his store discounted the jugs down from $60, but said it’s a fair deal.

“We make sure we are serving our customers in a responsible way,” said Bhullar in an interview.

He said the store aims to provide quality products for consumers looking to buy bulk and save money.

“Our marketing approach is we sell at a fair price,” he said.

Should Nally introduce minimum prices or a floor price, Bhullar said he could be concerned.

“In that scenario it will be hard for independent stores to compete with the bigger chains,” he said.

Nally’s ministry did not immediately clarify what specific steps the government might take on pricing.

Nally made the comments prior to introducing an omnibus red-tape reduction bill that he says will clarify he has authority to set liquor prices.

Nally added, “If this bill passes, then this is exactly the type of thing that I will look into.

“I don’t think a four-litre plastic jug of vodka adds to the quality of the distillery industry that we have in this province. I don’t think that it is responsible pricing.”

Nally said with the bill, he hopes to make sure the rules reflect what happens in practice, since the AGLC, which is responsible for overseeing the liquor industry across the province, doesn’t increase liquor prices without getting approval from the minister. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2024.

Lisa Johnson, The Canadian Press

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