It’s been a while since I’ve had anything to say about the alcohol retailing system in Ontario, but Tuesday’s media conference orchestrated by our soon-to-be-departing Premier really pissed me off. Suggesting that putting alcohol closer to where people live will somehow increase the instances of drinking and driving, while simultaneously boasting that Ontario’s rates have actually dropped since she gave Ontarians more access points… what the fuck, Kathleen?
She even brought the CEO of MADD Canada along for support. Armed with his opinions, Andrew Murie also told reporters that opening up the system further would lead to an increase in drinking and driving.
Let’s be clear: MADD’s tagline is “No Alcohol. No Drugs. No Victims.” They should add, No Details, because when asked how Ontario stacks up to Québec, he couldn’t – or wouldn’t – answer.
Let’s be more clear: MADD Canada has been a major beneficiary of LCBO charity for more than a decade. In 2016 alone, MADD cynically collected $2.4 million from a government body that not only promotes alcohol through various media, but also offers bonus Air Miles to encourage you and me to buy even more. Charming. It would be like the Canadian Cancer Society taking donations from the Philip Morris wellness program.
Now let’s revisit the drinking and driving statistics, because I actually have some. A few years ago I contacted the Alberta government to see how things changed when they opened up the system. In 1993, government depots sealed their doors and private liquor stores sprung up like prairie dogs. The most recent stats available when I checked (in 2014 – I would check again but it takes weeks to get answers to the next part) showed the population had grown from 2,975,000 (1993) to 3,971,000 (2012).
In that period of enormous growth, alcohol-involved accidents causing injury or death declined dramatically, from 1,699 (1993) to 913 (2012). That’s a 46% drop despite a population increase of 53%!
In terms of overall driving casualties, those involving alcohol declined from 12.6% to just 6.5%.
That’s a hell of a lot more compelling than MADD speculation.
And though I’m loathe to give Ford Nation more ammunition, fuck Warren “Smokey” Thomas and the steaming stream of shit he spewed last Friday.
OPSEU’s President (the same festering garbage heap who warned that putting beer in grocery stores would lead to increased instances of domestic violence) referred to the notion of beer and wine sales in corner stores as “utterly stupid and irresponsible.” “Smokey” laments how such a move would be “great for the private sector” (Heavens, no!), while siphoning off revenue from the treasury… as though beer in corner stores wouldn’t be taxed. It would, just like cigarettes, but without the overhead and administration that comes with operating a giant agency staffed by government cashiers and stockpersons.
More stats: the LCBO sent a dividend of $1.956 billion to the provincial coffers in 2015/16. Additional revenue from beer and wine (The Beer Store, Wine Rack, licences, etc) added another $582 million. So, $2.538 billion in total earnings from liquor.
In the same year, Alberta’s government collected more than $855 million from liquor sales.
Ontario, that year, had a population of 13,976,000 people. Alberta counted 4,237,000.
So Alberta had just over a third as many people and also collected more than a third of what Ontario reported for revenue. Ever-so-slightly the Western province actually pulled in more per capita from liquor taxes… but also collected property, business and income taxes from the thousands of additional jobs those private liquor stores created. More employment. More revenue. More convenience. Oh, but less labour disruptions and long weekend closures, so there’s that.
For the union’s big boss man to suggest that giving consumers greater access will mean sacrificing hospital beds is as ludicrous as an adult insisting you call him “Smokey.”
Of course in that same news release “Smokey” also claimed that “year after year, the LCBO pours $2 billion a year into the public coffers,” when in fact that only happened for the first time last year.
If libraries get shuttered under a Progressive Conservative government, that’s because Doug Ford has shown an insatiable appetite for dumbing down the population. But on the issue of expanding liquor sales to private retailers, the evidence suggests he’s the only leader actually making sense.