Latest Developments in the Canadian Economic Accounts
Access by Canadians to regulated liquor and cannabis retail outlets

Release date: October 10, 2018

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A large share of the goods and services Canadian households purchase are acquired from private sector retail outlets that are largely unregulated. Some regulations do apply to all retail outlets such as minimum wage legislation, health and safety requirements, zoning rules and holiday shopping restrictions, but in most respects the retailers are free to sell whatever array of products they decide upon, to acquire goods from the wholesalers of their choice, to charge whatever prices they deem appropriate, to display the goods as they see fit and so on. That is the normal case in Canada’s free market economy.

An important exception to this general statement concerns retailers of restricted substances, such as alcoholic beverages and, after October 17, 2018, cannabis products. The stores selling products of this kind are more heavily regulated by provincial and territorial government authorities. In some jurisdictions, only government owned and controlled outlets are permitted to sell the products while in others, although private sector vendors are allowed to operate, their locations and activities are more tightly regulated than those of other types of retailers.

Because products such as these are highly regulated, there is a potential for corresponding illicit markets, sidestepping the regulations, to exist. Governments seek to shape the regulatory environments to minimize the size of these illicit markets and one way to do that is to make the regulated products as easily accessible as possible.

Statistics Canada has done some calculations to determine the accessibility of regulated products—liquor and cannabis—to Canadian households in bricks-and-mortar outlets. Using the agency's geographic databases, the location of each Canadian household is identified, and the distance from that location to the nearest legal retail outlet is calculatedNote . Averages of these distances are then calculated to determine how generally accessible these products are to Canadians. It must be noted this takes no account of online or illegal retailers.

Liquor stores

Table 1 and Table 2 show the results for liquor storesNote . There are 2,895 of them in Canada and the population-weighted average distance between Canadians and the nearest liquor store is five kilometres (Table 5). As can be seen in Table 2, 90% of Canadians all across the country live within 10 kilometres or less distance from a liquor store and 82% live within five kilometres. Understandably the provinces and territories with low population densities have less easy access, with Nunavut being the most extreme case. Only 22% of Nunavut residents live within 10 kilometres of a liquor store. The provinces where liquor stores are most accessible are Ontario (95%), British Columbia (95%), Alberta (91%) and Quebec (89%). In Newfoundland and Labrador 62% have access within 10 kilometres and in Northwest Territories 70% have this degree of access. All the other provinces and territories have 70% to 80% of their populations within 10 kilometres of the nearest liquor store.

Also of interest is the fact that in Alberta, which has 874 retailers authorized to sell liquor (Table 5), 64% of the population (Table 2) lives within one kilometre of a liquor store. This is substantially higher than in any other province and partially reflects the fact that in Alberta private sector retailers can obtain permits to sell liquor. In British Columbia the percentage is 41% and in the other provinces and territories it is below 30%.

Cannabis stores

Table 3 and Table 4 show information similar to that in the first two tables, but for cannabis 'bricks-and-mortar' outlets rather than liquor stores. In this case the statistics are somewhat speculative, since no cannabis outlet can open for business legally until October 17, 2018. Each province and territory is presently implementing the rules and regulations that will apply in its own case. Some are planning to open government owned and operated retail outlets while others are allowing private retailers to apply for permits to sell cannabis products. In Ontario, there will be no legal cannabis outlets until private retailers are permitted to open for business on April 1, 2019, although online purchases will be allowed from October 17, 2018 forward. Northwest Territories and Nunavut are also expected to have no cannabis stores open in the fourth quarter. No account is taken in this analysis of legal online sales or illegal sales of cannabis products.

Overall, although it remains unclear at this time exactly how many cannabis retail locations will be open on October 17, 2018 and where they will be situated, there is nevertheless a great deal of information available. Statistics Canada has gathered whatever facts and intentions are publicly available about store locations in each province. In some jurisdictions the number and location of outlets that will be open in October is already decided. In others, less complete information is available and Statistics Canada has made its own imputations based on the available facts. It is estimated there will be 288 open cannabis retail outlets in the fourth quarter (Table 5).

On this basis, Table 3 and Table 4 show the expected accessibility of cannabis products in the fourth quarter after they become legal in Canada on October 17, 2018. For the country as a whole 35% of the population is expected to have access to cannabis outlets within 10 kilometres or less of their residence and 25% within five kilometres or less. British Columbia leads the provinces and territories with expected access at 73% of its population. The three Prairie provinces, Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador are each expected to have 10-kilometre access for 60% to 70% of their populations. The three Maritime provinces are each expected to have access rates between 55% and 60%. In Quebec only 40% of the population is expected to have this degree of access while in Ontario, Northwest Territories and Nunavut access is expected to be 0% in the fourth quarter. All provincial and territorial cannabis access rates are expected to increase substantially in 2019 and 2020 as additional retail outlets are opened.

Conclusion

Canadians have remarkably good access to liquor stores all across the country with 90% living within 10 kilometres of a store. Not surprisingly, their access to cannabis stores immediately after legalization on October 17, 2018 is likely to be much more restricted with only 35% of the population dwelling within 10 kilometres of a store. It is emphasized this is a preliminary estimate based on less-than-full information about the number of stores expected to open and their locations. Cannabis accessibility will undoubtedly increase substantially in 2019 and 2020.

Table 1
Cumulative number of CanadiansTable 1 Note 1 living within a given distance to a liquor storeTable 1 Note 2, fourth quarter 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Cumulative number of Canadians living within a given distance to a liquor store Given distance to a liquor store, 1 km, 2 km, 5 km, 10 km and More than 10 km, calculated using number units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Given distance to a liquor store
1 km 2 km 5 km 10 km More than 10 km
number
Canada 11,362,355 21,277,831 28,876,635 31,711,644 35,151,728
Newfoundland and Labrador 84,776 158,242 265,484 321,357 519,716
Prince Edward Island 20,498 38,328 77,954 107,592 142,907
Nova Scotia 207,360 382,390 588,728 738,101 923,598
New Brunswick 112,467 229,098 419,581 542,312 747,101
Quebec 2,360,006 4,650,155 6,499,149 7,290,334 8,164,361
Ontario 3,460,906 7,835,317 11,587,894 12,770,424 13,448,494
Manitoba 349,046 758,067 913,421 977,472 1,278,365
Saskatchewan 249,628 539,875 746,822 793,642 1,098,352
Alberta 2,591,997 3,336,786 3,554,164 3,704,638 4,067,175
British Columbia 1,908,747 3,323,470 4,168,425 4,402,666 4,648,055
Yukon 4,407 8,264 23,824 26,294 35,874
Northwest Territories 9,326 14,648 23,449 29,072 41,786
Nunavut 3,191 3,191 7,740 7,740 35,944
Table 2
Cumulative percentage of CanadiansTable 2 Note 1 living with a given distance to a liquor storeTable 2 Note 2, fourth quarter 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Cumulative percentage of Canadians living with a given distance to a liquor store Given distance to a liquor store, 1 km, 2 km, 5 km, 10 km and More than 10 km, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Given distance to a liquor store
1 km 2 km 5 km 10 km More than 10 km
percent
Canada 32 61 82 90 100
Newfoundland and Labrador 16 30 51 62 100
Prince Edward Island 14 27 55 75 100
Nova Scotia 23 41 64 80 100
New Brunswick 15 31 56 73 100
Quebec 29 57 80 89 100
Ontario 26 58 86 95 100
Manitoba 27 59 72 77 100
Saskatchewan 23 49 68 72 100
Alberta 64 82 87 91 100
British Columbia 41 72 90 95 100
Yukon 12 23 66 73 100
Northwest Territories 22 35 56 70 100
Nunavut 9 9 22 22 100
Table 3
Cumulative number of CanadiansTable 3 Note 1 living within a given distance to a planned cannabis storeTable 3 Note 2, fourth quarter 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Cumulative number of Canadians living within a given distance to a planned cannabis store Given distance to a planed cannabis store, 1 km, 2 km, 5 km, 10 km and More than 10 km, calculated using number units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Given distance to a planned cannabis store
1 km 2 km 5 km 10 km More than 10 km
number
Canada 1,440,702 3,797,855 8,757,433 12,194,999 Note ...: not applicable
Newfoundland and Labrador 51,424 141,076 274,922 336,714 519,716
Prince Edward Island 6,907 29,616 59,576 82,626 142,907
Nova Scotia 43,792 135,644 363,855 512,091 923,598
New Brunswick 34,833 97,642 290,802 414,181 747,101
Quebec 171,052 572,007 1,789,784 3,296,701 8,164,361
Ontario 0 0 0 0 Note ...: not applicable
Manitoba 72,366 261,485 747,866 826,490 1,278,365
Saskatchewan 117,606 316,339 684,128 727,937 1,098,352
Alberta 624,382 1,394,464 2,229,038 2,593,820 4,067,175
British Columbia 317,523 846,977 2,302,059 3,381,659 4,648,055
Yukon 817 2,605 15,403 22,780 35,874
Northwest Territories 0 0 0 0 Note ...: not applicable
Nunavut 0 0 0 0 Note ...: not applicable
Table 4
Cumulative percentage of CanadiansTable 4 Note 1 living within a given distance to a planned cannabis storeTable 4 Note 2, fourth quarter 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Cumulative percentage of Canadians living within a given distance to a planned cannabis store Given distance to a planned cannabis store, 1 km, 2 km, 5 km, 10 km and More than 10 km, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Given distance to a planned cannabis store
1 km 2 km 5 km 10 km More than 10 km
percent
Canada 4.1 10.8 24.9 34.7 Note ...: not applicable
Newfoundland and Labrador 9.9 27.1 52.9 64.8 100
Prince Edward Island 4.8 20.7 41.7 57.8 100
Nova Scotia 4.7 14.7 39.4 55.4 100
New Brunswick 4.7 13.1 38.9 55.4 100
Quebec 2.1 7 21.9 40.4 100
Ontario 0 0 0 0 Note ...: not applicable
Manitoba 5.7 20.5 58.5 64.7 100
Saskatchewan 10.7 28.8 62.3 66.3 100
Alberta 15.4 34.3 54.8 63.8 100
British Columbia 6.8 18.2 49.5 72.8 100
Yukon 2.3 7.3 42.9 63.5 100
Northwest Territories 0 0 0 0 Note ...: not applicable
Nunavut 0 0 0 0 Note ...: not applicable
Table 5
Population-weighted distance to liquor stores and planned cannabis retailers, fourth quarter 2018
Table summary
This table displays the results of Population-weighted distance to liquor stores and planned cannabis retailers Liquor
stores, Planned cannabis retailers, Population-weighted average distance, Liquor and Cannabis, calculated using number and kilometres units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Liquor
storesTable 5 Note 1
Planned cannabis retailersTable 5 Note 2 Population-weighted average distanceTable 5 Note 3
Liquor Cannabis
number kilometres
Canada 2,895 288 5 Note ...: not applicable
Newfoundland and Labrador 32 28 26 24
Prince Edward Island 16 4 6 11
Nova Scotia 116 12 5 17
New Brunswick 53 20 8 15
Quebec 421 13 5 46
Ontario 739 0 3 Note ...: not applicable
Manitoba 75 24 14 42
Saskatchewan 116 50 11 20
Alberta 874 105 3 36
British Columbia 437 31 3 31
Yukon 7 1 18 72
Northwest Territories 8 0 40 Note ...: not applicable
Nunavut 1 0 544 Note ...: not applicable

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