Despite the assumption on this forum and elsewhere that alcohol is an insignificant fringe issue within our provincial political landscape, it has managed to garner attention from the CBC and all of the major political parties in the Ontario Provincial Election campaign.
A question regarding private liquor sales in convenience stores (most likely sparked by the recent Angus Reid study
on the matter) has been incorporated into the CBC's Vote Compass, a tool that enables voters to determine which parties best reflect their views on the key issues in this election. So far more than 53,000 people have completed the survey. The Compass asks voters whether they agree or disagree that "convenience stores in Ontario should be allowed to sell alcohol."
Although it is commonly believed that none of the major parties would either privatize the LCBO or allow for liquor sales in convenience stores, the Progressive Conservatives have suggested that they are open to the latter idea while the Green Party is ardently in favour of corner store liquor sales AND reducing "market barriers for local wineries and craft brewers." Here's where the parties stand, based on statements provided to the CBC and Toronto Star and positions outlined in recent party policy documents:
Green Party (Strongly Agree):
Our current system favours large corporations, to the detriment of small craft breweries and wineries. Convenience stores already handle the burden of controlled sales like cigarettes. We would also reduce regulated market barriers for local wineries and craft brewers. Source: Green Party of Ontario Food & Farming Strategy (May 2011)
Progressive Conservatives (Somewhat Agree):
We will...increase market access for Ontario’s VQA wines...Asked specifically if that meant opening up sales to convenience stores, Witmer didn’t rule it out. “I would simply say (that) our plan is to increase access and how that would be accomplished obviously would become more apparent." Source: Changebook Platform and statement made to Toronto Star in "Let us buy beer in convenience stores, Ontarians say in survey" (May 2011)
Ontarians enjoy a wide variety of retailing options with regard to beverage alcohol. Ontarians have access to over 1,700 retail outlets, including the LCBO, The Beer Store, agency stores, wine retail stores, and on-site brewery and winery stores. The current retail system safeguards the socially responsible sale of liquor, a public trust the government takes very seriously. Studies show that government control over the sale of beverage alcohol helps reduce underage drinking and associated harms. Furthermore, under the federally-negotiated Canada-EU Agreement on Trade in Wines and Spirits Drinks, as well as NAFTA, we must abide by specific restrictions and are limited to a set number of retailers for wine and beer. Source: Statement from the Ontario Liberal Party to Vote Compass (August 2011)
New Democrats (Somewhat Disagree):
The LCBO currently does an excellent job of implementing their dual role of providing consumer choice when it comes to alcoholic products while at the same time restricting access to those legally allowed to purchase alcoholic beverages and providing public education to the general public about the dangers of excess consumption. Source: Statement from the Ontario NDP to Vote Compass (August 2011)
According to their Affordable Change platform, the NDP also plans to "work with the LCBO to guarantee more shelf space to independently-produced Ontario wines and increase the Ontario grape content in “cellared in Canada” wines to support Ontario wineries."
Sadly, the two parties that I agree with most on this issue are also the ones that I'm least likely to vote for. But it's good to see the idea of private liquor sales at least being addressed in this election, as it could *potentially* open the door to booze-focused convenience stores - similar to Ryan's Party Store - and full on private liquor stores down the road (my hope, anyway).
What are your thoughts?