Volume 95, Issue 15

Wednesday, September 26, 2001
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Editorial Board 2001-2002

Liquor? I barely touched her!

Editorial Cartoon

Liquor? I barely touched her!

Almost everyone loves liquor and according to a recent initiative by the Mike Harris government, people living in Ontario's rural areas are going to have a better chance to get their hands on it.

The provincial government recently announced the creation of a privately-owned LCBO franchise system designed to reach under-serviced and rural areas.

Critics of the Tories' privatization agenda are quick to point out this decision opens up a slippery slope, which could lead to the complete privatization of liquor sales within Ontario.

The argument Mr. Harris and company are offering seems to be a legitimate one. Rural areas simply do not have the population to support LCBO locations year round. Having a miniature franchise in the corner store of a small town would help service the area and allow locals to avoid the long drive to the nearest urban location.

For once, a Tory move towards privatization does not immediately seem like a complete moral sellout.

The government is playing with some initial rules in order to structure this initiative. Until 2003, the number of franchises will be limited to 150 stores and will not open in small towns that do not want them.

People love liquor and liquor loves people. So, what's the harm in it?

As previously mentioned – this decision could be a strategic move for the Tories to fully privatize the liquor business. The current government in Queen's Park seem to love handing over the reigns of public institutions to their friends in the corporate community.

A second concern is the availability of alcohol to minors. While over-generalizing would be foolish, many isolated communities tend to function on a small-town mentality, in which everyone knows everyone else and favours are often granted. Can we rely on an independent provider not to sell to kids?

Remember, cigarette sales are banned to minors as well, yet most teens always seem to find a private vendor willing to compromise the law for their own economic gains.

Even if a local convenience store does ask for identification and writes down the number of a young patrons driver's license (as is the current procedure in the LCBO if a person is carded), where does the information go? Who monitors sales violations and hands out penalties to those private vendors who break the law or look the other way when a young face approaches the counter?

The Tories say they will have all locations monitored by government inspections and secret shoppers. However, the chances of a government inspector making frequent visits to Nowhereville, Ontario are less than rare.

But, unless the Tories carry this policy too far, the new franchise initiative is probably not the end of the world. Liquor is sold privately in both Quebec and the United States, without obvious negative consequences.

A service is being provided to the public where it was previously lacking – there is certainly no fault in that.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001