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Evidence mounts that Ford’s policy of alcohol convenience is bad for Ontario: OPSEU

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the evidence keeps growing that the price of greater convenience to buy alcohol is too high for Ontarians to pay.

Thomas points to a new study that shows the number of emergency room visits in Ontario that were directly linked to alcohol use grew by seven per cent year over year between 2003 and 2016. The study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found the biggest increase was seen among women and young people.

Thomas says the Ford government’s move to expand alcohol sales into corner stores will make things worse. “The ‘C’ in LCBO stands for ‘control’ and there’s a reason for that. Alcohol has been identified as a prominent risk factor to health and safety. Our members who work in the LCBO are trained to prevent alcohol from ending up in the hands of underage or intoxicated people. I doubt the premier will make sure corner store employees have the same training.”

LCBO staff challenged nearly 14-million customers and refused service to more than 255-thousand during the 2017/18 fiscal year.

“It’s bad enough that the Ford government is breaking The Beer Store contract and it will have to pay up to a billion dollars in penalties, which is money that could be used to fund health care,” Thomas said. “So not only are they robbing our health care system of much needed dollars, but it is also adding to the health care burden by making alcohol readily available to everyone.”

Thomas noted that the same day the study was published, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce called for widespread private distribution, allowing beer, wine and now spirits to be sold in box stores, convenience stores and other private outlets.

“They’re really tone-deaf to be promoting this wild west approach in the face of a study that shows how it’s a strain on our health system,” said Thomas. “The Chamber appears drunk with its new found power and connections to the Premier’s office.”

Throughout this government, there are ties to the Chamber and perhaps the most egregious connection is alcohol lobbyist Melissa Lantsman being named as part of Doug Ford’s re-election campaign.

“It boggles the mind, the corruption of process occurring in this government,” said Thomas. “They just haven’t learned. Perhaps former Chief of Staff, Dean French was just a sacrificial lamb in the patronage scandal.”

Thomas says Premier Ford and big business don’t understand the simple concept of cause and effect.

“Hallway health care and alcohol availability are closely linked according to medical experts,” said Thomas. “Listen to them rather than your gaggle of self-interested cronies who are taking the taxpayers to the cleaners, destroying a system that was the envy of other jurisdictions.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931