So. Beer prices in Manitoba have just gone up. I found this out the hard way, like a rube, when I hit up the Zoo last night for a 12 of beer. The price on a case had gone up about $1.25, from $19.25 to $20.50.
“What’s the deal?” I asked the pale stooge behind the counter, whom I see on a far too regular basis and whose face, of late, I’ve come to loathe.
“You know,” he said, grinning like a goof. Goofball always wears a dirty black Megadeath T-shirt, and regularly editorializes on my choice of beer. This time, he laid it straight on the line. “Fuckin’ government,” he said.
On the TV, the Leafs were getting their asses kicked. Outside, it was wet, muddy and cold. I dug deeper and coughed up the bucks for the case. I shook my head. “Fuckin’ government,” I echoed, turning my back on the game.
My buddy, The Dank, works for the MLCC, so when I saw him next, I asked him about the beer increase. What was the purpose? What was the point?
The Dank explained that the price went up, for the first time in six years, because costs associated with handling empties were rising due to increased demand for services. He said, “Shit, beer prices go up all the time, but only by like five or 10 cents. This time it was bigger. We’re still about the cheapest in the country.”
I had to agree with him. Last time I went to British Columbia, for a wedding, I discovered that a six-pack in B.C. costs much more than a six in Manitoba. Even when I hit the Great Canadian Liquor Store in Edmonton last time I was there, 30 of their cheapest President’s Choice Dry was only just cheaper than the equivalent Burt of Busch beers here.
Still, I felt a bit disgruntled. While cost of beer has gone up, as has cost of bread and other necessary commodities, over the past few years my wages have not increased whatsoever. In fact, they have gone backwards, with me working longer hours for less money ever since.
Who is to blame? Well, perhaps myself, to some extent. However, I am a somewhat educated fellow, and a hard worker at any task which I do not harbor disdain for. Why not blame The Market?
The Market, of course, could be fingered just as easily as The Government. In fact, the market is certainly more at fault than the government, as an increase demand for services is what directly required vendors to petition the government for adequate compensation for the service they are providing and the cost they are accruing upon themselves by attempting to function as an empties recycler and a poison dispenser at once.
However, The Government shares the blame in this one, as they have failed to invest in an efficient recycling system that encourages the consumer to take an active part. Every other province in western Canada has a far more advanced and user-friendly recycling program than we have here in Manitoba. Monetary incentives exist for the consumer to engage fully in the recycling programs in other provinces, while in Manitoba that incentive exists only in the beer empties trade.
While people pinch pennies as our economy lurches to some sort of stability, the number of people returning their empties will increase, putting greater pressure on beer vendors who are responsible for preserving our environment from the plague of empty beer cans and bottles. That costs will rise to meet such demand for services should be of no surprise to anybody.
But then again, it got me, at first. Currently, the only recyclable containers that can be returned for a recycling levy refund are beer bottles and cans. In other provinces, all recyclable containers can be returned for anywhere from five to 30 cent refunds. As a result, Manitoba lags embarrassingly behind the rest of the country when it comes to recycling.
I reckon it’s high time Manitoba stepped up it’s recycling game, and stopped punting the costs of recycling onto those who can least afford it — poor, working folk who enjoy a beer or two after a long day of working. In fact, such a system would help everyday penny-pinchers, as they will be more likely to save and return for refund any such items. More than once in my time living in B.C. as a broke wage-slave, recycling helped cover my monthly bills. However, there is little indication that our government is moving in that direction.
Until such a time, for which I certainly won’t hold my breath, it looks like it’s time to buy a brew-kit.
Sheldon Birnie is the Comment Editor at the Manitoban.