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Time to rein in LCBO agency stores program, OPSEU tells Clark

We the North
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TORONTO – The best way to increase the LCBO’s dividend to government without increasing the social harm caused by alcohol is to rein in the LCBO’s Agency Stores Program, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says.

OPSEU made the point Monday when President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and members of the union’s Liquor Board Employees Division met with Ed Clark, Chair of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets.

“In terms of revenues from alcohol sales, high-volume privately-run agency stores are the least efficient part of the entire LCBO operation,” said Thomas. “The LCBO could boost its revenues by $50 million a year just by bringing the 100 biggest agency stores back under direct operation. Contracting in of existing sales would provide the best value for money for Ontarians without increasing the social costs associated with drinking.”

The Agency Stores Program has expanded beyond its original limited mandate, Thomas said.  

“When it first started, the idea of the agency stores program was to serve villages and towns that were simply too small to support a real LCBO store,” Thomas said. “These days we are seeing private vendors in big communities, often just a few kilometres away from existing LCBO stores. It’s time to rein in the agency stores program and return it to its original mandate.”

Denise Davis, chair of the OPSEU Liquor Board Employees Division, said the union’s conversation with the Clark panel was cordial and wide-ranging.

“We really emphasized the social responsibility focus of the LCBO,” said Davis. “Drinking is extremely popular, but there’s a cost attached to it. It tears apart families, it kills people in car accidents, it’s linked to cancer and dementia, and it drains money from law enforcement budgets.

“We think the LCBO model of public ownership is still the best way to minimize the net cost to society of alcohol. We sincerely hope Mr. Clark got the message.”

OPSEU represents some 7,000 workers at the LCBO. The union’s brief to the Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets is available at https://opseu.org/information/report-premiers-advisory-council-government-assets-ed-clark-chair.

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