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Liquor board employees ask Queen’s Park to direct LCBO to replace private Agency kiosk

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Liquor board employees in Ontario are asking the provincial government to order the LCBO to open a full-service retail outlet in the town of Mount Albert, east of Newmarket, where a privately-owned and operated “agency store”  currently enjoys annual sales of more than $3 million.

“We have done our homework and the result is very clear: the residents of Mount Albert want to replace the existing agency store kiosk in the Sobeys grocery store on Highway 48 and replace it with an full-service LCBO store,” said Vanda Klumper, chair of the 6,000-member Liquor Board Employees Division of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

Klumper was speaking Monday to members of East Gwillimbury town council, which represents residents of Mount Albert. OPSEU is asking councilors to adopt a resolution calling on Queen’s Park to order the LCBO to close down the agency store kiosk when its contract with Sobeys expires in November 2009. Sobeys earns more than $300,000 annually in commissions from liquor, wine and beer sales at the in-store kiosk – a dividend that ends up in Nova Scotia where the company has its corporate headquarters.

OPSEU conducted a public opinion survey of more than 150 residents of Mount Albert in September 2008. Results of the survey, conducted by Strategic Communications Inc., of Toronto, showed that more than two of three respondents over the age of 19 want to see a real LCBO store in Mount Albert.

Those surveyed cited better product selection, professional sales service and the LCBO’s reputation for social responsibility as the leading reasons they prefer a real LCBO over a privately-owned and operated agency kiosk.

They also endorsed the fact that profit earned by the LCBO – more than $1.3 billion in 2007-08 –  help pay for health care, education and public infrastructure in Ontario.

LCBO agency stores were introduced in 1962 with a mandate to service remote northern Ontario communities. Since 2000, however, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of private agency stores opening in southern Ontario, many in communities just outside major urban centres. Today, the number of agency stores in Ontario stands at more than 200.

“Agency stores represent the leading edge of privatization of wine and spirit sales in Ontario. Time-after-time the people of Ontario have said they reject privatization and want to see alcohol sales and distribution stay in the hands of a public agency like the LCBO, which is a global leader in the retailing of spirits,” said Klumper.

“The fact we have private retail stores like Sobeys doing more than $3 million in annual sales undermines the purpose and mandate of the LCBO. We’re calling on Premier McGuinty and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, who oversees the LCBO, to stop the expansion of agency stores and repatriate many of the larger ones starting with Mount Albert.”

In March 2007 OPSEU released the findings of a financial analysis of agency stores based on revenue figures provided by the LCBO. The study showed that 89 agency stores could be repatriated to the LCBO, resulting $340 million in additional profits to the LCBO over a 10-year period.

“That’s a tremendous amount of money that isn’t going into the public treasury, especially during the tough economic times we find ourselves in,” said Klumper.