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Ford’s alcohol overhaul would put profits before people: OPSEU

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is warning that a disastrous privatization of alcohol sales is looming with the appointment of a former Alberta politician to the new position of Special Advisor for the province’s alcohol review. 

“Putting Ken Hughes in this job is like handing a fox the keys to the chicken coop,” said Thomas. “The Conservatives made a total mess of alcohol privatization in Alberta, now the Premier wants to bring that Wild West mentality to Ontario.”

Hughes is a former cabinet minister in Alberta, the only province to fully privatize alcohol retailing and distribution. Thomas points out the Alberta experience has been a colossal mess.

“This scheme is about putting profits before people,” says Thomas. “It means giving business more opportunities to push alcohol sales at a great cost to the health and safety of our kids and communities. It’s a ploy to help private retailers increase their profits at the expense of public welfare.

“This is a socially reckless and dangerous policy choice,” says Thomas. “Private retailers don’t exactly have the best security, and Ford’s plan would make alcohol theft a cakewalk. The government should focus on improving safety by improving in-house security at LCBO outlets instead.”

Despite the Ford government’s rhetoric around choice and convenience, Ontarians prefer a balanced approach, says Denise Davis, Chair of OPSEU’s Liquor Board Employees Division (LBED).

“Ontarians trust the LCBO to keep alcohol out of the hands of underage kids,” says Davis. “That’s because LCBO employees are well trained, and they take safety very seriously. They’re experts, not alcohol pushers. 

“The public LCBO model is all about balance between convenience and public health and safety,” says Davis. “Loosening the rules would only harm our kids and communities. It would mean more dangerous working conditions for store employees, who would undoubtedly be paid less with fewer protections.”

“The government is inventing solutions to problems that don’t exist,” says Thomas. “There’s always room for improvement, but Ontario’s public model works. We’ve got the lowest rates of impaired driving of all provinces, and public alcohol sales help to pay for things like hospitals and schools.

“Ford should reject Alberta’s radical approach, and embrace balance,” says Thomas. “It’s time to put people before profits and support the public model.”

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