(TORONTO – August 20, 2014) – Today’s report from the C.D Howe Institute calling for beer and wine sales in corner stores and grocery chains is a thinly-veiled attack on middle-income earners and Ontario’s small, independent wineries and craft brewers, says the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
“This report contains nothing we haven’t heard since the days of Mike Harris and his failed effort to privatize the LCBO,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, whose union represents more than 7,000 employees at the LCBO. “I will give them credit for one thing, though: They acknowledge the real reason they want private beer and wine sales is to crush middle incomes and kill off growth in our province’s small wineries and craft brewers.
“Their report amounts to little more than handing over a megaphone to big-box grocers and the multinational brewers who would dominate sales were beer and wine sales to be privatized,” added Thomas, who noted that one of the report’s authors, Anindya Sen is a former paid consultant to the Ontario Convenience Store Association and who wrote a similar-sounding report on behalf that organization less than a year ago.
“Let’s not delude ourselves. The recommendations in this report have little to do with mom-and-pop corner stores and everything to do with emaciating the wages of those who work at the LCBO and the Beer Store, by the corporate giants who will come to dominate the market and slash wages under any privatization scheme.
“Moreover, privatization of beer and wine sales – and even the LCBO itself – could well represent the death knell to Ontario’s small, independent wineries and craft brewers, both of which have repeatedly said they rely on a public retailer, like the LCBO, to ensure their products reach a wide consumer base. Does anyone genuinely believe that corner stores or mega-grocery chains are going to give retail prominence to the tiny craft brewing industry?”
The OPSEU president dismissed the report’s claim that controls on underage purchasing and sales to intoxicated customers will take care of itself “through enforcement.”
“The LCBO and Beer Store are global leaders in the enforcement of social responsibility when it comes to the sales of beer, wine and spirits. That’s of scant interest to the authors of the report or the billion-dollar retail grocery industry on whose behalf they bid.
“Privatization of retail beer, wine and liquor sales is a bad idea and, again, I urge the Wynne government to slam shut the door on this proposal. The current system serves consumers very well and while modernization and retail improvement are key to growth, the recommendations of the C.D. Howe report don’t represent the path ahead.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas