A dramatic increase in the number of alcohol-related charges over the Victoria Day weekend should be a warning to the Wynne government that its plan to increase alcohol availability comes with serious social, criminal and health care consequences.
“The experts in this field agree: The wider the retailing of spirits, wine and beer becomes the greater the likelihood of harm caused by its abuse,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “The past holiday weekend provided us with a sobering reminder that before we embark on putting beer and wine into hundreds of grocery stores let’s study the impacts.”
On Tuesday, the OPP reported that 37 alcohol-related charges were laid in the Greater Toronto Area, a 37 per cent increase over the tally recorded for the 2014 May long weekend. One person, a Hamilton bylaw officer, was fatally killed when he was hit by an alleged drunk driver operating his vehicle in the wrong direction on Highway 403.
Thomas pointed out that in Ontario today there are more than 1,700 locations where consumers can purchase beer, wine, cider and spirits. That is only slightly less than 1,850 Tim Horton’s outlets in the province.
Under the Liberal government’s plan, which was first proposed by the government’s privatization czar, Ed Clark, as many as 450 private grocery stores will be eligible to sell beer and wine – a 26 per cent increase over n the current level of alcohol retailing outlets.
“There is a large and respected body of research that demonstrates clearly the relationship between alcohol availability and its harmful side effects. Regrettably, the Wynne government has chosen to ignore that evidence but instead acts on the advice of Ed Clark,” said Thomas.
“Clark was given his chance, now it’s time for a public consultation process to hear from groups like MADD and Arrive Alive who say the most sensible and risk-averse move would be to allow LCBO outlets to operate inside grocery stores which would ensure the highest levels of social responsibility are maintained.”
Thomas noted that the government has avoided discussing how the private grocery chains will practice social responsibility to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors, inebriated customers and illegal third-party purchasers.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas