07.25.2012 11:58 AM

Putting the fox in charge of the hen house

…that’s a fair metaphor to describe the Ontario Convenience Store Association’s (OCSA) demand that they be permitted to sell booze.  (McGuinty has said no, and Hudak has refused to say yes.)

The last we heard of them, the OCSA was effectively the face of Big Tobacco in Ontario.  They lobbied vigorously against modest measures to keep kids from getting their hands on tobacco.

These characters are only interested in making more money.  They don’t give a sweet damn about harm to the public.


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    Tiger says:

    Of course they want to make money, and of course that’s their primary concern. That’s how business operates.

    If it means that we’d get better beer selection than the LCBOs provide, wonderful! (To say nothing of the Beer Store, which is a private monopoly (duopoly?) granted by the government.)

    As it stands now, there’s better microbrew selection at the average downtown Buffalo gas station than at any store in Toronto. How does that serve Ontarians well?

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      Dave Breukelaar says:

      Exactly. Open it up! There are so many quality beers being made in this province that the average joe can’t see past the wall of Coors Light and Lacrap.

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      Justin says:

      There’s plenty of selection at an lcbo, unless youre a raging alcoholic. The Ontario microbrew thing should be rectified though. And the lcbo is working on that.

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        Philip says:

        Exactly. Never really had an issue getting what I wanted to drink, when I wanted it, between the Beer Store and the LCBO. I could stand to see more Ontario micro-breweries but the present selection isn’t horrible.

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    Tim L says:

    I didn’t know about their tobacco connections, but how is what they’re suggesting a really a harm to the public? Lots of convenience stores already have LCBO licenses in small towns and cottage country. So why can’t the one across the street from me in Toronto do the same?
    If its about underage drinking, its not like any kid who wants beer or liquor can’t find a way to get it now.

    I really don’t get how “we’ll let you buy wine at Loblaws like a civilized human being” isn’t a sure vote-winner.

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      Conservative Socialist says:

      If Tim Hudak believed it would net him more votes, he’d come out in favor of abolishing the LCBO.

      It’s one of the relics from the prohibition era. No Ontario politician wants to really be seen endorsing more sales of alcohol. A few well-publicized drunk driving deaths would hurt any politician who did so.

      I believe only Quebec (save for those special exemptions you pointed out that exist in isolated or rural areas) allows sales of alcohol in it’s convenience stores. Alberta does allow for privately-owned liquor and beer stores, however.

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        Jason Hickman says:

        No, Newfoundland allows for beer sales in its convenience stores, too.

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    DanO says:

    I don’t see how the current system is really that harmful to consumers. While the choice could be better, LCBO’s and to a lesser extent Beer stores are pretty widely available.
    It makes sense in rural areas to have the dual license (interesting side-note when I went to one with two lineups and a 16-year old couldn’t “ring me up” on the cash register because of his age).

    Quebec has an open selection and I didn’t find their selections to be much different than their Ontario counterparts (though Costco-sized cases of Molson Dry are great for cottage weekends).

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    Mooj says:

    Give me either:

    1) American access to liquor
    2) American prices for liquor

    I’d ask for both, but that’d be greedy.

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      Kelly says:

      Why not American access to handguns, too? That’s working out super-duper for them … and let’s raise the speed limit to 200km/hr while we’re at. it.

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        Jim says:

        That’s the craziest argument I’ve ever heard. Americans do booze better than us. Better prices and better selection.

        Your response is like responding to “Let’s aim for the efficiency and quality of the Finnish education system” with “WELL THEN WHY NOT HAVE THEIR WINTERS AND PROXIMITY TO RUSSIA!?!?”

        We can relax our Victorian-era liquor laws to match other jurisdictions in North America without giving guns away inside every Kinder Surprise. Did you really think that through before you posted it?

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    Conservative Socialist says:

    I have just come back from a trip to Europe of which, Paris was the highlight. France is not just another country; it’s a grand civilization with a proud artistic, architectural and military history. And Parisians are dressed just like the characters in “Mad Men” do–dressed sharp.

    I noticed things in Paris were a little bit different:

    -price of Perrier soda water at a restaurant was 5 euros
    -glass of coca-cola 4.5 euros
    -beer? 2.5 euros

    Beer and wine is sold freely in most convenience stores. A bottle of wine can go as cheap as 1.5 euros there.

    So yeah, it’s obvious that the government there wants you do drink booze more than soft drinks which I assume are taxed rather punitively, otherwise I can’t explain the high prices for these. I presume that since the entire French countryside is controlled by the vineyard lobby, they’d raise a ruckus if their national staple was taxed like Canada taxes it’s alcohol.

    So it made more financial sense for me to drink beer and wine all the time while I was there.

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      Kelly says:

      You do realize that drunk driving has become such a problem in France that a new law was introduced requiring a breathalizer to be installed in cars, don’t you? Why do you think that might be?

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        Jim says:

        Do you have any statistics that show that French drunk driving deaths are worse than other comparable countries?

        The “Why do you think that might be?” approach is just a way to make your argument without having to actually make a point.

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    W the K - No, not Warren says:

    The older I get the less I care about this issue. I don’t buy alcohol as often and in the quantities I did when I was younger. I have no issue with the price I pay for it. LCBO outlets are clean well lighted places to make your purchase. Customer service and selection is light years ahead of where it was a generation ago.

    Beer and wine at a convenience store in a big city residential area? Neighbourhood associations will petition against them. My friends in Calgary tell me it happens all the time.

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    Campbell says:

    Ontarians would be far better served by having access to beer and wine in convenience stores/grocery stores.
    The Beer Store is a government granted cash cow for three foreign corporations (Labatt, Molson and Sleeman are now all foreign owned). Profits from beer sales should go to Ontarian small business owners.
    (Yes, it is true that some grocery stores have “Wine Rack” outlets in them, but these are restricted to selling Canadian products, and therefore the selection is not equivalent to the LCBO’s. And they aren’t allowed to sell beer, so I need to make two stops when grocery shopping!)

    I am all for the LCBO continuing to exist in a fair market – I don’t think any private company could match the level of service the LCBO provides anyway, so they would continue to prosper in an open market. Furthermore, the LCBO’s profits go back to Ontarians, so this monopoly isn’t inherently damaging to the economy.

    I also think the Beer Store should be allowed to exist, but I am certain that should they have to compete in a real market for customers, their terrible customer service would be forced to improve or they would surely be out of business within a year. Furthermore, their profits go to the foreign corporations that we have allowed to take over our national beer brands, who collectively own the Beer Store. This is taking important money out of the hands of Ontarians, and the government continues to allow it to happen. Shameful in my view. Open up the competition and let the Beer Store’s incompetence drive its own extinction.

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    Malcolm Jolley says:

    I imagine if the unions whose membership work in Beer Stores and LCBOs were for it, opinions at Queen’s Park would change very quickly.

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    Clive says:

    I agree with Campbell. Keep the LCBO – it’s a world class wine retailer with great selection, knowledgeable staff and the Vintages monthly catalogue. But for beer sales, the private monopoly of the big brewers is anachronistic and indefensible. So many microbreweries have had their growth stunted by the difficulty of breaking into the Beer Store which has a vested interest in keeping them out.

    I’m from England and I really don’t think we had any more underage drinking, or any worse drink-driving issues due to supermarkets selling booze. That stuff is much more about culture, education and parental responsibility.

    That said I was startled to see beer in vending machines in the airport in Sao Paulo a couple of years ago. That might be going a bit far. It was the same price as the soft drinks though, sorry Con Soc.

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      Campbell says:

      Thanks Clive! I thought i was on to something!

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    kre8tv says:

    I’ve never really been swayed by the public safety argument. The places that would sell beer and booze would be run by small business owners–most of whom would live in the communities where they work and just as important, would never want to stick their neck out by making the mistake of selling hooch to minors. Yes, things were often different with tobacco way back when. But then again, a lot of things were different back then in terms of society’s attitudes about vices.

    That said, there *are* better arguments to be made about maintaining the LCBO.

    It’s a moneymaker, for starters. That’s by virtue of being able to control both the retail and purchase price. Take that out of the province’s balance sheet and suddenly it has to find an alternate source to make up that revenue. Second, buying power. The LCBO is one of the biggest buyers of alcohol in North America. That means better selection and sometimes better prices. Granted, booze is not cheap in Ontario, but let’s not kid ourselves into believing it would be all that different if it was being sold by independent businesses who have a need to make a reasonable profit over and above their overhead costs.

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    T PAUL says:

    Anyone who defends our present century old system is with either the Baptists or the Bootleggers (The big brewers). To think in 2012 a small brewery must ask its competition to sell its product is morally incomprehensible.

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      Justin says:

      Yeah it’s just a regular oppressive 19th century fiefdom in Ontario.

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    Dennis says:

    The OSCA may not give a sweet damn about the public good, but if the only opposition to this idea is that they’re for it, that’s pretty damn weak.

    Coming from Newfoundland, I remember as a kid thinking the warehouse where the boys in Strange Brew went to get beer was so bizarre that it must have been thrown into the movie for kicks. It wasn’t until much later that I learned about the cleverly-named Beer Store.

    Back home, you get your beer in the corner store, and liquor at the liquor store – and it seems to work well. In Ottawa, if I feel like a beer after hours, I drive to Quebec. When I lived in Korea, I picked up beer with my groceries (at Walmart!).

    This is something people are asking for, so I don’t appreciate McGuinty’s dismissive attitude about the whole thing.

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    CQ says:

    Ontario cannot afford the choice of keeping or dismantling the Foreign Brewers’ Retail Store and Gov’t LCBO. Given our chronic debt level, we sorely need the revenue (and the excessive pricing levels). We can, and should put the crimp upon these organization’s infrastructure costs.
    No more palace style building plans. Rinky-dink stores were good enough before; so let future generations put up with ‘cruddy old’ 1960s, er, 2000s retail outlets.

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    TDotRome says:

    100% in agreement, W.

    However, here’s my argument against those who want to open it up:

    As a citizen & taxpayer in Ontario, I am the co-owner of a business. It’s called the LCBO. It’s the world’s largest liqour seller, and does a pretty good job at it. Most businesses are envious. Many people would love to take it over. I definitely don’t want to give up that business, though. As it’s profits are returned to me and my co-owners, which in turn provide public service. Which coincidentally happen to be my co-owners, too.

    Just exactly why would I want those profits to be removed from me & my fellow citizens and shifted into the hands of a few individuals?!? As far as I can tell, most convienience store owners are doing just fine. And, I have no desire to give up what’s mine, so they can get rich.

    Oh, and btw, if you support opening up to convience stores, you should have your name put on a list. Just so the rest of us know who should be paying extra taxes to make up for the shortfall from the loss of sales to the LCBO.

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      Malcolm Jolley says:

      Do you really think the LCBO has greater purchasing power than Walmart or any of the large US or UK (or European) supermarket chains?

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        Kelly says:

        Walmart doesn’t even pay its staff a living wage. THAT’s what you get with Walmart’s purchasing power. Why would you want THEM taking over liquor sales? Right now the profits go right back into the province. Why do you want your money going to Bentonville, Arkansas?

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      Steve T says:

      By that argument, we should put every private enterprise out of business, and make it a crown corporation. I think the Soviet Union tried that experiment for a few years, and it didn’t work out so well.

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        Kelly says:

        Liquor isn’t like other products. Why do you think there was ever any sort of prohibition movement in the past anyway? Do you think it might have to do with all the craziness that happens when people drink too much? Look out the window right now…tell me which car has a drunk driver behind the wheel. I want LESS alcohol consumed, not more. Canadian crown corporations aren’t run like soviet bloc enterprises; they’re mostly efficient, professionally managed, well run and provide good value.

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    Jason Hickman says:

    Newfoundland and Quebec allow for beer (and wine, in QC) to be sold in corner stores and the like. I think Quebec allows wine and/or beer to be sold in groceries. I’m not sure about the other provinces/territories. Honestly, when I came to Ontario for school, I was baffled that one couldn’t buy a six-pack of Molson in a convenience store.

    Growing up in St John’s, I can’t say that the presence of beer in convenience stores, in and of itself, as opposed to *only* selling beer in Beer Store-type outlets, caused any particular problems. Anyway, as the article WK linked to noted, in rural areas of Ontario, one can buy alcohol at a corner store. There’s no reason why one shouldn’t be able to do the same in urban areas that I can see.

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    Campbell says:

    My proposed system:
    Keep the LCBO
    Allow the Beer Store to continue as well.
    Allow corner stores and grocery stores to sell any and all beer and wine (regardless of origin).

    The result? Continued profitability for the LCBO (taxpayers) and better access to beer and wine for onarians,while cutting into the Beer Store’s monopoly and putting more money into the pockets of Ontario small businesses.

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    Tim Sullivan says:

    It was Liberal policy to permit beer and wine in corner stores, when Peterson was running. It was quickly abandoned. No one thought for a second it was anything but a vote-getter, but Rae, Harris and Eaves had a chance to take on this policy.

    Rae didn’t so as to not offend the unions and it was a money-maker. Harris didn’t because he was happy killing Indians, residents of Walkerton and welfare recipients in North Bay to be bothered.

    It is still a money-maker for the province. It is an efficient, environmentally-sound beer system and the LCBO is the largest booze buyer in the world, so it can command its price on purchase. It makes money for Ontario, there is no reason to get rid of it, except ideological.

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    Malcolm Jolley says:

    Our system of alcohol distribution (and warehousing in Whitby, thanks to Jim Flaherty before he went to Ottawa) is about protecting public service union jobs. How much does an LCBO cashier or forklift operator make compared to a Hasty Market or Loblaw employee? I guess a lot more. This has nothing to do with morality or “protecting” minors from John Barleycorn or even consumer choice. The LCBO and it’s QUANGO partner the Beer Store is the best job in a lot of far flung Ontario towns and any smart pol knows it. Until the people get really angry, or a pol fells she has enough popular support to stare down OPSEU, it will not change – however much I wish it would and (by the way) I support our Premier.

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      Justin says:

      Jim flaherty protected union jobs? What planet have you been on?!?! And we should be encouraging low more low wage jobs, tea party Tim wants too.

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      Kelly says:

      Private system: Money goes to high executive salaries, heavy advertising and profits go to far-flung shareholders.

      Public system: Way less money goes to executive salaries and hardly any advertising, more money goes into pockets of hourly employees and profits go back to the public purse to be recycled into useful programs and services.

      I don’t know why this isn’t obvious to people.

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    Steve T says:

    Whoa, whoa, whoa…. “Harm to the public”? From what – selling alcohol privately? How so, exactly? Tobacco is a lot more harmful than booze, and there are thousands of private stores that sell it. Heck, even guns are sold in private stores.

    The government’s role should be to regulate booze (minimum age of consumption; general laws pertaining to sales; etc), and to tax it. The government should NOT be in the retail business. Of course, the entrenched interests (unions, in particular) love to trot out the boogeyman every time this discussion comes up.

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      Tim Sullivan says:

      Tobacco is not more harmful than booze. Booze leads to more violence and death on a per use basis than any smoking. The net effect of smoking takes years to build up and its damage mostly inflicted, at least directly, on oneself.

      Not once have I seen a family break-up due to smoking. I’ve seen families break-up as a result of drinking (and don’t give me crap about death by smoking breaking up families — so far, death is still a 100% certainty for all living persons.)

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    Mike B says:

    Bottom line, there are more important things to fight about in this province and country then getting cheaper prices on booze. I’d prefer cheaper prices on food and fuel and a number of other things before I ever start caring about cheaper booze. And frankly I’m sick about people pointing out that the provincial government is being hypocritical when they use the “social responsibility” argument. Who cares if they’re being hypocritical, that doesn’t change the fact that cheaper, more accessible booze will result in more alcohol-related fatalities. Furthermore, once they start allowing booze in convenience stores, it’s only a matter of time before the Wal-Marts of the world start selling it to. How are convenience stores supposed to compete with big box stores? And LCBO locations are both plentiful and open until 10:00 or 11:00pm. Is that not enough time to get your booze? What kind of a stupid argument is it that we should allow booze in convenice stores cause they’ll be open later. We should privatize because a small number of people have poor time management skills? And as a citizen of Ontario I’m glad we have this “cash cow” to support government programs like healthcare and education; a fact Hudak is well aware of and tehrefore would never get rid of. In conclusion, the LCBO is here to stay. Get over it and move on to more important things.

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