Is it time for the Ontario government to reduce its role in the selling of liquor? The Ontario Progressive Conservatives told reporters Wednesday in Toronto that the provincial Tories would update the liquor laws.
Late last month, the Ontario Convenience Stores Association went to Queen’s Park and petitioned the provincial government with 112,000 signatures urging Ontario to relinquish its control over the liquor industry.
Premier Dalton McGuinty didn’t agree with the initiative. Instead, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is set to open 70 new stores over the course of the next two years. Sales are getting higher and in order to meet the demand, the present 620 stores are not enough.
The Progressive Conservatives argue, however, that there needs to be at least a discussion into having private enterprise sell and distribute alcohol, especially with a $30 billion budget deficit and the provincial debt problems.
Ontario PC Finance Critic Peter Shurman held a press conference Wednesday in Toronto in which he stated that the Tories would look at updating the liquor laws in the province, which some say are “archaic.”
“Our province is in a jobs crisis, but the Liberals would rather produce a glossy magazine on summer cocktails than fix the fiscal mess they’ve created for Ontarians,” said Shurman in a press release. “Before rushing to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on new liquor stores, why didn’t the government look at what private sector businesses can bring to market?
“The private sector already runs liquor stores all around the world, providing investment capital to open new stores and letting competition drive products and sales. Government coffers still receive revenue, and public funds go towards more important services – like health care and education – or paying down the debt.”
Furthermore, the PC Finance Critic cited an Auditor General’s report that found out the LCBO does not negotiate discounts to reduce its costs for high-volume buys. Also, Shurman argues that the LCBO could diversify its merchandise and remove the products that have a low demand.
He also gave examples of private sector involvement in alcohol in other parts of Canada. “We need to meet consumer demand if we want our liquor market to be as strong as possible. The private sector has made proposals on how we can do this, and it’s the government’s job to consider these ideas.”
In the end, the PCs state that the premier’s Liberal government should cease “treating Ontarians like children” and adapt the present system to the 21st century. “It’s time they took action to kick-start Ontario’s economy, instead of getting in the way of economic growth.”