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OPSEU President: Ford’s ‘Folly’ Economic Update will drive up costs from alcohol use and abuse

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
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Toronto – For a government that claims to be fiscally responsible, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says its plan to make alcohol easier to purchase will end up costing the province millions — even billions — in lost productivity and added health care costs.

“We should be calling it the ‘folly’ economic update. Page after page, it’s nothing but mistakes that will leave Ontarians poorer financially, and in poorer health,” said Thomas.

“One of those mistakes: extending LCBO hours and opening the door to booze in thousands of convenience stores,” said Thomas. “The research is clear. The easier you make it to get alcohol, the more damage alcohol does. And alcohol can do a lot of damage.”

In fact, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use released a report on Monday that estimates alcohol use cost the province $5.3 billion in 2014 in lost productivity and extra health care, social services, and criminal justice costs.

“Buck-a-beer. Extended LCBO hours. And whiskey on every street corner. Is this Ford’s best plan for growing the economy?” asked OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “We need to take a breathalyzer down to Queen’s Park – I think somebody’s spiked the Kool-Aid all the Conservatives have been drinking.”

Thomas said it’s clear that Ford didn’t do any meaningful consultation before plowing ahead with the measures outlined in the economic update.

“Child advocate Irwin Elman said he was shocked to learn through the media that his service was being cut,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same for the environmental commissioner and the French language services commissioner.

“And judging by a hurried memo that went out yesterday to our members, I’d say LCBO President and CEO George Soleas was caught flat-footed by Ford’s decree expanding the hours that beer and alcohol can be sold,” said Thomas. “Front-line workers certainly weren’t consulted.

“For months, I’ve been asking for a meeting with Ford to talk about working together to build the best Ontario,” said Thomas. “We’ve got a lot of experience, a lot of insight, and a lot of great ideas for making life better for Ontarians. It’s time for the Premier to stop talking and start listening.”

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