CBC's Neil Macdonald on the LCBO

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CBC's Neil Macdonald on the LCBO

Postby GregClow » Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:42 pm

Neil Macdonald has written an excellent and witty article comparing the LCBO (and government liquor control in general) to his local "mom & pop" booze shop in Washington DC. A great read, check it out:

http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/06/2 ... onald.html

At the risk of being a spoiler, I'll quote the final line, since it's just perfect:

"At the LCBO, you're a taxpayer who has to be prevented from drinking too much. At Pearson's, you're king. And that's that."
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Postby Malcolm » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:08 pm

The LCBO drone, Chris Layton, manages to make an idiot of himself while toe-ing the company line. Perfect.
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Postby Cass » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:33 pm

Reminded me a lot of the writing I've been doing on FOB.

At least Neil lives in Washington and has access to other options. Here we're still stuck.
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Postby TJ » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:56 pm

Loved the piece.

Favourite line: He acknowledges wine and liquor can be much cheaper in the U.S., but "when I've been down there I've never felt as safe as I do here. A lot of people here look at it like that."

Yes, the US is a combat zone. :roll:

Second favourite: "Basically the premise is - and there are studies to show this - that the cheaper the alcohol, the higher the irresponsible use is."

Right, and we can't get cheap alcohol here. Wtf?!
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Postby icemachine » Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:56 pm

The LCBO is actually cheaper on high end brands than many places in the states. However, the low end stuff is really hit by the minimum price. Wasn't it Wilde who said "Work is the Curse of the Drinking class".

The Ontario government just amuses the hell out of me. Cheaper and easier to get high on pot than it is to get drunk on beer. The comments on that CBC piece really take the cake. No wonder McGuinty gets re-elected.
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Postby Pub Style » Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:00 pm

Malcolm wrote:The LCBO drone, Chris Layton, manages to make an idiot of himself while toe-ing the company line. Perfect.


While I don't agree with what Chris Layton said in the article, I know him personally and he is an outstanding gentleman and a very nice guy.

Great article though. And yes, pretty much along the lines of what Cass is trying to accomplish with his FreeOurBeer site.
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Postby A » Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:42 pm

MeisterBurger wrote:Loved the piece.

Favourite line: He acknowledges wine and liquor can be much cheaper in the U.S., but "when I've been down there I've never felt as safe as I do here. A lot of people here look at it like that."

Yes, the US is a combat zone. :roll:


Well, to be fair, I'd say most of the Liquor stores I've ever seen in the US do feel like they might have a biker hangout in the back room :)
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Postby Belgian » Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:38 pm

icemachine wrote:The LCBO is actually cheaper on high end brands than many places in the states. However, the low end stuff is really hit by the minimum price. Wasn't it Wilde who said "Work is the Curse of the Drinking class". .

Drug addicts are known to compulsively steal and squander hundreds of thousands of dollars on getting high... a literal fortune thrown away in a few years, so we can't underestimate the remarkable motivation of an addict regardless of what their habit costs.

All it does, enforcing the minimum pricing of cheep beer is shift the greater cost burden from the wealthy to the poor. There are plenty of alcoholics buying 120-dollar scotch and 100-dollar Bordeaux - so is that supposed to be OK with the LCBO? Or if that's not OK what's the LCBO going to do about it, conduct an invasive alcohol consumption audit of everyone?

The system does little or nothing to limit people's access or consumption of alcohol, but iit does discriminate unfairly against those of lower income level.

I mean really. How on earth do you 'control' how much people drink? Show me a study that really conclusively proves THAT, and the same people can probably also prove cars are not safe to drive, and a sharp pencil is too lethal for office use. This is life, not a cage of lab rats.
Last edited by Belgian on Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Philip1 » Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:39 pm

"when I've been down there I've never felt as safe as I do here. A lot of people here look at it like that."

I honestly don't know what that means. Do thugs in the US choose liquor stores as their hang out?

My parents are visiting the US at present and I've provided them a list of beers to bring back if they have time to do some shopping. Am I putting them in danger asking them to stop off at US beer-selling stores? :o
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Postby Belgian » Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:48 pm

Philip1 wrote:"when I've been down there I've never felt as safe as I do here. A lot of people here look at it like that."

I honestly don't know what that means. Do thugs in the US choose liquor stores as their hang out?


I have been to USA liquor stores as 'safe' as ours, and some like Whole Foods Bowery & Village Beer Merchant are actually MUCH nicer than a few crappy LC's in the GTA, eg Brimley and the previous Morningside (shudder). It's mainly store location - and what has THAT to do with state VS private selling? Complete red-herring argument.

Besides, the reason 'mom and pop' American stores have such a jarringly casuall feel to us is the Province try to make their mostly remodeled LCBO stores look and feel exactly the same, so we immediately feel comfy and right at home everywhere. This is NOT normal in a free market. It's the life of Veal Calves.

Reading the article, I see Chris Layton dodging every reality-bullet with some magical patch-work of reasons for the LCBO to exist. In fact he disproves every comforting, wondrous advantage USA liquor retail actually has, while singing the praises of an LCBO system which, apparently, can never be wrong whatever bonehead thing it does.

Anybody who gainstays one side of an argument like that is blowing bullshit.
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Postby Steve Beaumont » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:23 pm

Belgian wrote:Anybody who gainsays one side of an argument like that is blowing bullshit.


Or is a p.r. person in charge of media relations for a corporation. That's his job, people. Same as, every single day, thousands if not millions of people in Ontario do or say things they don't entirely agree with because it's in their job description.

I want to second what Troy said, as I've known Chris for more years than I care to remember. He is no idiot and he knows full well what the numbers are in terms of the LCBO's contribution to Ontario's social programs -- which I believe is what he was alluding to when he talked about the safety aspect, in terms of society in general rather than the area around any specific liquor store in particular -- and what prices are like both north and south of the border and state to state and province to province.

Macdonald is quite right about the instances he cites. Equally, he is painting with broad strokes when the issues are much more complex than free enterprise versus the LCBO. No one here likes the limitations the LCBO imposes on the availability of brands, and few of us, I'm guessing, haven't rolled our eyes on many occasions with respect to the actions of the Board. But at the same time, I personally have no problem paying a little more for beer and wine and spirits -- the subject that seems to be at the root of many of the comments made thus far -- because it helps our society as a whole.
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Postby Tapsucker » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:52 pm

Just for fun, I’d like to share with you a different locality’s reality, this one Tallinn Estonia. They are generally a very free market jurisdiction. Liquor taxes are also barely noticeable. Some might argue that this contributes to some pretty serious alcohol abuse. In reality, Estonians a pretty hard drinking culture and the transplant Russians hold up their end pretty well too. I can’t really believe the price of booze is the main cause when the cultures are already set in, but it may be a factor.
One glaring negative effect of low prices appeared to be the attraction for tourists. Swarms of drunken UK lager louts on cheap holidays were a regular scene in bars and in the streets pissing on themselves or each other (or occasionally actually hitting the ground and making a mess). Apparently the airfares are cheap enough that it is still worth the trip to drink that cheap.
A few years back, the capital city Tallinn passed an ordinance banning retail sales of alcohol after 8pm. (The rest of the country is still a 24-hour free for all). The reasoning was that too many young people were drinking. I’m not sure if they actually have a minimum age or if it’s poorly enforced, but heavy drinking kids are indeed a problem. Of course, what the sales cut off time has to so with discouraging kids (do they forget to buy their booze earlier?) I don’t know. For a country with so little experience regulating things, this might be their first feeble attempt to use government control! Whatever the case, it actually makes the LCBO look good. Score one the LCBO.
Another unusual thing I saw was a supermarket wine section with some fantastic B.C. wines that we would kill for here in Ontario. Furthermore they were cheaper than I have even seen them in B.C.! Twenty shame points for the LCBO (and BC liquor).
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Postby Belgian » Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:37 pm

Steve Beaumont wrote:
Belgian wrote:Anybody who gainsays one side of an argument like that is blowing bullshit.


Or is a p.r. person in charge of media relations for a corporation. That's his job, people. Same as, every single day, thousands if not millions of people in Ontario do or say things they don't entirely agree with because it's in their job description.

I want to second what Troy said, as I've known Chris for more years than I care to remember. He is no idiot...


Never said that, Stephen. This is not an Ad Hominem attack on your friend who is just doing hus job, whether he likes what he has to tell people oficially.

I will maintain that, empirically for me, what what Chris is required to say rings false (or very funny?) in terms of the comparative quality of shopping experience, feeling of safety, and the alleged 'study proven' social benefits of the LCBO-rrun stores. I admit I do view the LCBO's stranglehold in Ontario as excessive and too self-interested to really ever make sense.

The fact that the LCBO, wishing to appear reassuringly god-like, never really admits to clear weaknesses in products service or policy is 'gainstaying' in my view, and such official PR underestimates the Ontario public. ( We're not idiots either.) :D

And to lighten up the dead serious tone in here, I really did enjoy a good laugh at the PR back-and-forth and the fun 'America is better' mythology of the article. And, the grass being always greener, I'll probably miss some things about the reliable old LCBO when it's down at the ROM propped up next to the T-Rex skeleton. Cheers!
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Postby SteelbackGuy » Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:57 pm

Steve Beaumont wrote:
Belgian wrote:Anybody who gainsays one side of an argument like that is blowing bullshit.


Or is a p.r. person in charge of media relations for a corporation. That's his job, people. Same as, every single day, thousands if not millions of people in Ontario do or say things they don't entirely agree with because it's in their job description.

I want to second what Troy said, as I've known Chris for more years than I care to remember. He is no idiot and he knows full well what the numbers are in terms of the LCBO's contribution to Ontario's social programs -- which I believe is what he was alluding to when he talked about the safety aspect, in terms of society in general rather than the area around any specific liquor store in particular -- and what prices are like both north and south of the border and state to state and province to province.

Macdonald is quite right about the instances he cites. Equally, he is painting with broad strokes when the issues are much more complex than free enterprise versus the LCBO. No one here likes the limitations the LCBO imposes on the availability of brands, and few of us, I'm guessing, haven't rolled our eyes on many occasions with respect to the actions of the Board. But at the same time, I personally have no problem paying a little more for beer and wine and spirits -- the subject that seems to be at the root of many of the comments made thus far -- because it helps our society as a whole.


Well said Steve.

I've found that the bartowel, in general, has become a hub of complaints. Whiners gather in hordes to complain over and over about the same thing, most never happy no matter what chages may come about.

I guess some of these old dogs can't leaqrn new tricks.
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Postby Belgian » Wed Jul 01, 2009 11:56 am

And it's all good. As long as people who hold an opinion are taking some kind of balanced all-sided view, I respect whatever people have to say here. In fact Stephen probably wouldn't waste his time and experience explaining something unless he felt our views were in ways incomplete. That's the point of 'discussion' - not being more 'right' or taking THIS position or that one in some simplistic game of tug-of-war.

In the end we can see things the way we want. And yes, shop in Buffalo if we want, LOL (that's the other thing we need, a sense of proportion and hence the ability to laugh because, all in all, we live in a great country. Happy Canada Day.)
Last edited by Belgian on Wed Jul 01, 2009 12:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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