According to CUPE, it would be imprudent and even contrary to the protection of public health to close SQDC outlets as some have suggested. In fact, demand is still steady, and the same goes for alcohol. A CROP survey conducted last fall indicated that one Quebecker in five had shopped at a SQDC outlet at some point. Traffic at the store and strong sales indicate that demand is robust. In this context, the Quebec model has proved to be a success as it has had an immediate impact since it was first established, by encroaching on the turf occupied by organized crime, the black market. The SQDC’s mandate, which “is primarily social,” involves informing the public, promoting responsible consumption and prioritizing the protection of the health and safety of its customers. This certainly cannot be said for street sales.

“At a time when we are going through an unprecedented health crisis, do we really want tens of thousands of SQDC customers to go back to getting their supplies in the street, and handling paper money and products that are not safely wrapped? Personally, I am reassured that SQDC’s mission largely consists of a concern for public health and responsible consumption. Moreover, Dr. Horacio Arruda, the National Director of Public Health, is one of the persons the government has designated to assist the SQDC board of directors. The government’s decision to allow SQDC outlets to remain open is, in my view, responsible, but everything must now be done to safeguard the health and safety of our members,” said the Director of CUPE-Quebec, Marc Ranger.

“We are even stronger believers in the SQDC’s mission, particularly during the current health crisis. However, this mission must be fulfilled with absolute priority given to safeguarding the health and safety of employees and customers. We will continue to demand new protective measures as soon as they become necessary, such as the immediate installation of plexiglas. With the increased traffic of recent days, the quarantined customers showing up at its stores and the stress associated with the current emergency situation, employees have their hands full and deserve special recognition from the SQDC. We have issued new recommendations to the employer so that they recognize both the role of and the constant effort made by employees. In particular, we are demanding adapted working conditions and special measures that should apply for the entire duration of this health emergency,” added David Clément, President of CUPE 5454, which represents most SQDC employees.

CUPE also pointed out that most of the other provinces in Canada have also opted to keep their distribution network open.