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Stop privatizing alcohol, Almeida tells hearing on Bill 138

Stop privatizing alcohol, Almeida tells hearing on Bill 138

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida at Bill 134 hearing
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida at Bill 134 hearing
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Put a stop to the ongoing privatization of alcohol sales, OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida told the Ford government at Queen’s Park on Dec. 2.

“It’s a simple dynamic. Privatized alcohol leads to more stores. More stores leads to more drinking. More drinking leads to more harm,” Almeida told the government’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. “As a Correctional Officer, I’ve seen it first-hand. Alcohol leads to crime. More alcohol will lead to more crime.”

Almeida was presenting OPSEU’s official submission on Bill 138, an omnibus bill that lays the groundwork for more alcohol sales by private corporations, including those that own corner store chains.

Almeida said the profit motive means corporations can’t be trusted with a controlled substance like alcohol.

“These are the kinds of people who got caught fixing the price of bread,” said Almeida. “Can we really trust them to keep alcohol out of the hands of kids?”

Instead, Almeida demanded that the government leave alcohol sales where they belong: under the responsible control of the LCBO.

“The LCBO is the gold standard for the responsible sale of alcohol,” said Almeida. “Last year, the OPSEU members who work at LCBO challenged nearly 14 million transactions over concerns of intoxication, under-aged purchase, or somebody purchasing for somebody under-aged.

“How many transactions were challenged at grocery stores? Nobody knows – they don’t have to keep track.”

Almeida added that the LCBO returns all the profits from alcohol sales to the people of Ontario – more than $2 billion last year alone.

“Who benefits from privatized alcohol? Not the people who buy alcohol – prices go up. Not the communities that have to deal with the damage done by alcohol – they have less to invest in fixing that damage,” said Almeida. “The only people who benefit are a very small group: the owners of grocery corporations and convenience store chains.”

“This government says it’s for the people. Start acting like it – abandon Bill 138.”

A Conservative MPP on the committee, Donna Skelly, said because she had never witnessed any theft of alcohol from a grocery store she tried to suggest it wasn’t a problem.

Almeida disagreed and after he appeared before the committee he said Skelly’s whole premise was wrong.

“I’ve never personally seen a plane fall out of the sky but sadly and tragically it happens,” said Almeida.  “Theft of alcohol is a big problem, trust me.”

OPSEU’s submission on Bill 138

First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida’s presentation on Bill 138 to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs:

Good afternoon. I’m Eddy Almeida. I’m the First Vice-President/Treasurer of OPSEU. OPSEU represents 165,000 Ontario workers.

We have a vast array of job titles. But our basic job boils down to this: keeping people and communities healthy, safe, and prosperous.

Bill 138 does exactly the opposite. It makes a few rich people richer while leaving the rest of us less prosperous, less healthy, and less safe.

I don’t have much time today, which is incredibly frustrating because of the size and scope of this omnibus bill. So I’ll move on to our submission, which has two main points.

The first has to do with clinics offering things like fertility treatments, diagnostics and cardiology.

Bill 138 loosens the criteria government must use when deciding to grant them a licence – the government will no longer have to consider how well they plan to monitor the results of the care they provide.

I know this government loves to cut red tape. But if you cut this red tape, yellow tape won’t be far behind. So don’t do it.

Secondly, I’ll address the many changes that set the stage for more private alcohol. Section 3 of the bill says this:

“The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario shall exercise its powers and perform its duties in the public interest and in accordance with the principles of honesty and integrity, and social responsibility.”

Public interest. Principles of social responsibility. Privatized alcohol fails – and fails badly – on both these counts. Not only that, but alcohol prices will go up!

Study after study has shown this to be true. We’ve listed just some of them in our submission.

It’s a simple dynamic. Privatized alcohol leads to more stores. More stores leads to more drinking. More drinking leads to more harm.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction says alcohol already costs Ontario billions in health costs and lost productivity. $5 billion. Every year.

And CAMH – the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health – has, like OPSEU, called for a moratorium on private alcohol sales. Why? Because privatized alcohol leads to more drinking, which leads to more harm.

I don’t need a study to tell me that. As a Correctional Officer, I’ve seen it first-hand. Alcohol leads to crime. More alcohol will lead to more crime.

But what does Bill 138 do? It opens the floodgates. It takes the power to control alcohol away from the LCBO and gives it to the rich owners of corporations.

This is true of cannabis as well. This government’s move to allow up to one-thousand privately run retail outlets in Ontario is bound to make a badly handled situation even worse.

Can we trust them to act in the public interest? To be socially responsible? These are the kinds of people who got caught fixing the price of bread. Can we really trust them to keep alcohol out of the hands of kids?

The LCBO is the gold standard for the responsible sale of alcohol. Last year, the OPSEU members who work at LCBO challenged nearly 14 million transactions over concerns of intoxication, under-aged purchase, or somebody purchasing for somebody under-aged.

How many transactions were challenged at grocery stores? Nobody knows – they don’t have to keep track.

Here’s something else the LCBO does well: return billions in profits to the people of Ontario.

With privatized alcohol, the owners of grocery stores and convenience store chains skim off that profit.

So while the need for public services like hospitals, jails, and rehab grows, we actually have LESS to invest in them.

But at least we get cheaper alcohol, right? Wrong! Just ask Alberta. Or Saskatchewan. Or Washington State. When they privatized alcohol, prices went up.

So to sum up: who benefits from privatized alcohol? Not the people who buy alcohol – prices go up. Not the communities that have to deal with the damage done by alcohol – they have less to invest in fixing that damage.

The only people who benefit are a very small group: the owners of grocery corporations and convenience store chains.

This government says it’s for the people. Start acting like it – abandon Bill 138.