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Put beer-in-grocery-store plan on hold, LCBO union says

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TORONTO – The union representing workers at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is calling on the Wynne government to shelve its plan to allow up to 450 grocery stores to sell beer.

“The largest expansion of liquor retailing in Ontario history is being rushed through without proper study and without proper consultation,” said Denise Davis, Chair of the Liquor Board Employees Division of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. "The government hasn’t listened to anyone with actual expertise around alcohol policy.

“We have,” she said. “Until this government is ready to have a serious, open and transparent discussion about alcohol policy, expanding beer sales into grocery stores must be put on hold.”

Davis made the remarks Thursday at legislative committee hearings into the provincial budget  bill.

“Alcohol is not just another consumer product,” OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said. “It is a controlled substance, and for good reason. Our current alcohol retail system is a wise compromise between the dangers of the unregulated market and the absurdity of Prohibition, and it’s a system that works.”

Dramatically expanding the number of outlets licensed to sell alcohol will significantly increase alcohol consumption and the significant social harm that comes with it, academic studies have shown. Alcohol has been conclusively linked to health problems, violence, traffic accidents, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, family breakdown, and lost productivity in the workplace.

“By expanding the number of outlets that sell alcohol, and treating it as a food rather than a drug, the province is encouraging Ontarians to drink more,” Davis said. “We will all pay for it.”

OPSEU represents some 7,000 frontline workers at the LCBO. In 2013-14, OPSEU members challenged 11.4 million people who appeared underage or intoxicated, refusing service to more than 400,000.

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