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Community members rallied in Larder Lake to bring back the LCBO

OPSEU members rally to save the LCBO in Larder Lake
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More than 75 people rallied in Larder Lake in northeastern Ontario on July 18 to tell the government to restore access to the LCBO.

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The closure of the local LCBO outlet in June after 70 years of service has locals fearing for the very survival of their community. More than 1,000 people live in Larder Lake and the surrounding area, less than 20 kms away from the Quebec border. The area is dependent on summer tourism to keep the local economy going.  

Locals fear the closure will drive residents and tourists alike to choose a one-stop shopping experience across the border in Quebec or 30 kms away in Kirkland Lake over shopping locally.

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The LCBO temporarily closed the store in February, citing structural concerns. The provincial agency then permanently closed the store in June with no advance notice to the community. Despite an offer of land from the mayor, the LCBO has said there is no suitable alternative location.

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The union heard about the locals’ campaign to re-establish a store in Larder Lake and wanted to help out.

“Larder Lake has my union’s 100 per cent support,” said President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Northern communities have a right to exist the same as communities in the south. There was no reason for the LCBO to close its store in Larder Lake. It was making money. The government must step in and order the LCBO to re-establish a store in the community.”

The rally was held on Highway 66 across from the site of the shuttered LCBO. Drivers honked car horns show their support. Rally participants carried signs reading, Don’t make it harder to live in Larder! Bring back the LCBO. They chanted “Who owns it? We own it!” The LCBO is an important asset for Ontario. In 2016, the LCBO provided $2.4 billion to the provincial government to pay for public services.

Speakers at the rally included John Vanthof, MPP, Timiskaming-Cochrane, Gary Cunnington, Mayor of Larder Lake, Mike Bisaillon, Regional Vice-President, OPSEU, and Denise Davis, Chair, Liquor Board Employees Division, OPSEU. Rally organizers were Leslie Gagnon, the president of Local 683, and Judy Jones, the president of Local 682.

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Community members were encouraged to keep up the pressure on the LCBO and on the government minister in charge of the LCBO, Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance. Contact information for the LCBO and the Finance Minister was given out at the rally and left at small businesses around town and in the municipal office.