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OPSEU’s call for RCMP investigation into alcohol lobbying draws lawsuit threat from big corporation

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas speaking into a microphone in front of an Ontario flag.

Toronto – A large corporation called Alcanna, which could reap significant profits from the Ford government’s expensive and dangerous scheme to expand privatized alcohol sales, is threatening to sue OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas because he called for transparency and truth.

“They may have deep pockets and high-priced lawyers, but we will never be intimidated or silenced by threats and bullying,” said Thomas. “The people of Ontario and the front line workers in OPSEU have a lot to lose if we allow Ford to give big corporations free reign to sell more booze.

“We demand to know who’s really behind this scheme. We demand the truth,” said Thomas. “If Alcanna actually sues, we will defend ourselves vigorously. And we will look forward to hearing from the Premier and current and former members of his staff, MPPs, lobbyists and consultants in the discovery process.”

On May 29, Thomas called for the RCMP to investigate the corporate lobbying that occurred before Ford introduced legislation to cancel the government’s agreement with the Beer Store, opening the door to corporations like Alcanna.

Thomas pointed out connections between Alcanna’s current and past principals and people with connections to the Ford government and the Conservatives. For example, Thomas said that Melissa Lantsman, who ran Ford’s election campaign communications, is now working as an Alcanna lobbyist.

In its lawsuit threat, Alcanna’s lawyer wrote: “The Release states that ‘Alcanna hired Ford’s election campaign communication director, Melissa Lantsman, as a lobbyist.’ This is false. Alcanna hired Hill & Knowlton, one of Canada’s leading governmental relations firms. Alcanna never hired Ms. Lantsman.”

Thomas said this claim is exactly why an RCMP investigation is so important.

“We need an independent investigation so that corporations can’t hide the truth behind meaningless technicalities and bafflegab,” said Thomas. “Lantsman works for Hill & Knowlton. And a simple check of the lobbyist registry shows that she became an Alcanna lobbyist barely two months after she helped get Ford elected.

“The truth matters. And the truth is that alcohol use and abuse costs Ontario billions of dollars a year in lost productivity and extra health care. And the easier alcohol is to get, the more damage it does. 

“We all deserve to know what led Ford to decide to increase our health costs and reduce our productivity,” said Thomas. “People can threaten to sue us all they want. But we will never stop fighting for transparency, accountability, and truth.”

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