He listed a long list of problems in NB Liquor’s relationship with local liquor producers. The auditor’s investigation covers a period from April 2018 to March 2021.

A management method that can lead to favoritism

NB Liquor is said to have entered into special agreements with four producers, which, according to the Auditor General, opens the door to favouritism. These agreements provided, for example, for a reduction in NB Liquor’s profit margin for the benefit of local producers, which would have cost the Crown corporation $1.5 million.

The Auditor General, Paul Martin, deplores the absence of any document justifying this decision, and several others concerning local producers.

Paul Martin, Auditor General of New Brunswick, pointed to major shortcomings within NB Liquor.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Michel Corriveau

ANBL was unable to provide rationale or supporting documentation for significant financial and pricing decisions that were made during the period covered by our audit. Communication and evaluation records on key processes were not maintained and updated. Important historical data was not retained in documentation, in critical systemshe points out.

In the case of the four special agreements, NB Liquor did not provide any analysis of the impacts on its finances.

In general, the auditor denounces the fact that NB Liquor seems to act as it sees fit with certain producers. ANBL did not work effectively with local producers in the province, ANBL did not follow clear steps in its product management processesremarked Paul Martin.

And these questionable practices are no exception at NB Liquor. We found this to be concerning, as these findings were not limited to a single aspect, or a single test, but rather seemed to reveal a common trait.deplores the auditor.

Auditor General Paul Martin addressed members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and then the media.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Michel Corriveau

The opposition wants major changes

Green Party MP for Kent North Kevin Arseneau listened to Paul Martin’s presentation to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

It is extremely extremely worrying that a producer would have had preferential treatment. »

A quote from Kevin Arseneau, Green Party MP for Kent North

Kevin Arseneau, Green MP for Kent North, laments the way NB Liquor handles its relationships with local producers.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Michel Corriveau

The rules should, he said, be clear and the same for everyone. When there is no process to follow, when you don’t know how and what to do, to have an equal chance of being able to sell your product, to make your product known, to live from what you do, it is completely unacceptablesays Kevin Arsenau.

This situation is far from reassuring for the industry, according to René Legacy, MP for Bathurst Ouest-Beresford. When they hear that there is potentially favoritism going on, it creates a bit of mistrust, it creates an atmosphere where people question everything, so it eats up energy, it takes a lot more preparation time , and questioning afterwards, he said.

René Legacy, Liberal MP for Bathurst West-Beresford, believes that the way of doing things at NB Liquor must be changed.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Michel Corriveau

According to René Legacy, a helm is needed. We will have to strengthen their processes and have established procedures that are much more transparent and much more solid.

NB Liquor has failed to keep up with industry developments

In recent years, many small businesses producing beer, wine or other alcoholic products have sprung up in New Brunswick. Alcool NB, which has a monopoly on the sale of alcohol in the province, has faced a brand new phenomenon that is rapidly growing, explains André Léger, general manager of the microbrewery Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault.

André Léger, general manager of the microbrewery Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault, believes that NB Liquor has approached the industry.

Photo: Radio-Canada

The industry is still quite recent, the explosion of alcohol producers in New Brunswick, I would say that it happened in the last eight years, so the company, I think, it has not been able to really keep up with the pace of growth that’s been taking place with the industry so those were policies that had to be adapted on top of old policies to accommodate what was happening in the industryhe explains.

According to André Léger, things could change in relations between NB Liquor and producers, among other things thanks to the creation of a new committee that brings together representatives of the government corporation and the industry.

I think it’s really a first opening, trying to work with the industry in a concrete way, and in a way, I think, that is likely to have a real impact.

NB Liquor says it wants to make changes

No one at NB Liquor was available for an interview.

By e-mail, the person responsible for communications ensures that the Crown corporation has provided as much information as possible according to the various requests. However, the auditor indicated otherwise. According to him, little information was provided to him to justify NB Liquor’s decisions.

NB Liquor generally finds the recommendations useful, and that 6 of the Auditor General’s 19 recommendations have already been implemented. It is not stated, however, what these recommendations are.

It is assured that all recommendations will be addressed within the next two years.



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