Only eligible residents of Newfoundland and Labrador spent more on alcohol than British Columbians among residents of Canadian provinces.
While residents of Canada’s youngest province over the legal drinking age spent an average of $1,056 on alcohol in 2016-2017, British Columbians finished second with $864, with the Canadian average being $775. Residents of Prince Edward Island spent the least with $630. Ontarians, whose populist Tory government under Premier Doug Ford recently liberalized liquor laws, spent $741.
The figures — which appear in a new report from Statistics Canada — lack a level of context, because they do not capture the complexity of liquor regulations across the country, which vary significantly because of geography, pre-existing social norms, and level of government involvement among other reasons.
To appreciate this fact, consider alcohol sales in Canada’s three territories. In the Yukon, eligible Canadians spent an average of $1,261 dollars on booze. In the Northwest Territories, they spent more than $1,600 dollars. In Nunavut, the figure was only $231 dollars in 2016-2017 in reflection of that territory’s unique sociology, geography, and regulations concerning the sale of alcohol. Iqaluit, the territory’s capital city, opened its first liquor store in September 2017 — so after the report’s data period had ended. (By way of background, liquor sales have since spiked).
All this said, governments across Canada earned an average of $411 per person over the legal drinking age from the control and sale of alcoholic beverages in 2016-2017, with beer being the most popular beverage.
Regional differences, however, exist. Notwithstanding the perceived boom of micro and craft breweries, British Columbians generally prefer wine over beer in mirroring the preferences of Quebec residents. When it comes to wine, Canadians prefer red over white, except in Prince Edward Island.
Two provinces, British Columbia and Ontario, also account for 70 per cent of national sales of cider, whereas Newfoundland and Labrador shows a distinct preference for rum, a phenomenon likely rooted in the fact that the province originated Screech and served as transit point for North American rum smugglers, including the crime syndicate around famed mobster Al Capone.
Overall, Canadians over the legal drinking age purchased 9.6 drinks a week, with beer accounting for almost half of those drinks (4.2)