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Thomas calls on party leaders to take a stand against hard liquor in grocery stores

Picket sign reading "Stop privatizing our LCBO" at a rally.

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is issuing a challenge to the party leaders hoping to be Ontario’s premier: will you commit to public health by taking a clear stand against the sale of hard liquor in grocery stores?

“Letting grocery corporations sell hard liquor would be like handing the keys to somebody who’s just had a few shots – a deadly disaster in the making,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Alcohol is a controlled substance for a reason – if it’s not sold and distributed responsibly, it can easily cause incredible harm and hardship.”

Thomas said the recent price-fixing scandal involving bread shows that corporations like Loblaws, Sobeys, and Metro can’t be trusted to put people before profits.

“The profit motive impairs their judgement,” said Thomas. “I think it’s a big mistake to trust grocery corporations to sell beer and wine. And it would be an even bigger mistake to trust them to ensure that kids and people suffering from addiction can’t buy vodka or whisky.”

Thomas’s comments follow news that a lobby group called Spirits Canada is complaining it’s “not fair” that the provincial government allows grocery stores to sell beer and wine but not hard alcohol. The lobby group says that in Quebec, consumption of hard alcohol has been dropping drastically because it’s not available in grocery stores, but Thomas says that just proves his point.

“Committing two wrongs isn’t going to make things fair, and it’s certainly not going to make them right,” said Thomas. “The best way to fix this ‘unfairness’ isn’t to allow hard alcohol onto grocery store shelves, it’s to take beer and wine off them.”

Denise Davis, the chairperson of OPSEU’s Liquor Board Employees Division, agrees that the government should be limiting the sale of alcohol in grocery stores, not expanding it.

“There is a large and growing body of scientific evidence that shows that the more available alcohol is, the more damage it does,” said Davis. “When access to alcohol goes up, disease and death go up right along with it.”
Davis says the LCBO has a long and excellent track record of selling alcohol responsibly. In 2016-17, for example, LCBO staff challenged more than 14.4 million individuals and refused to serve over 250,000, the majority for reasons of age. As well, the LCBO hires companies to send secret shoppers into its outlets to ensure LCBO staff check the ID of anyone who appears to be under 25 years old.

Thomas said this is such an important public health issue that Ontarians deserve to know where each of the leaders stand.

“We know that back in 2016, the person who is now the Chair of the LCBO Board of Directors examined this issue and determined that hard alcohol should not be sold in grocery stores,” Thomas said. “We deserve to know if any of the party leaders are now going to put corporate profits before people and public health.”

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