TORONTO – The union that represents more than 7,000 LCBO employees today applauded the government’s decision to expand beer, wine and spirits sales to large, retail grocery outlets.
“This is a step in the right direction for the future of alcohol retailing in Ontario,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents LCBO workers at retail outlets, distribution centres and at the corporation’s head office.
“The move announced by Finance Minister Charles Sousa ensures that this valuable Crown corporation will stay in public hands,” said Thomas. “At the same time it provides consumers with greater convenience, all the while ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility.”
But Thomas noted that Sousa’s announcement failed to address the future of LCBO Agency stores, especially those which have annual revenues in the millions of dollars. Agency stores, many of which are found in grocery and convenience stores, are typically located in smaller communities which don’t enjoy convenient access to a regular LCBO outlet. Their private owner-operators purchase product from the LCBO at 90 per cent of the regular retail price, thus guaranteeing a 10 per cent commission on sales.
Citing figures from an independent consultant, Thomas told the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Government Agencies in June, 2012, that Ontario could stand to gain more than $350 million in lost revenue over the next 10 years if the LCBO repatriated the most profitable agency stores when their contracts with the Crown corporation expire.
“The numbers are staggering,” he told committee members at the time. “From 2003 to 2007 alone, the LCBO permitted close to $1 billion in retail sales to be sold through private agency stores.”
The only thing that has changed since then, Thomas said today, is that those numbers have grown even larger.
“The government and the LCBO have the financial ammunition they need to repatriate the most profitable agency stores,” he said. “The people of Ontario and our public treasury are missing out on tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue that could be spent on health, education and the preservation of public services.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas