Volume 95, Issue 15

Wednesday, September 26, 2001
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Gas mask panic

Homeless find new digs

UWO gets gypped: only $2.7 million

Varsity 'blues'

Let them drink booze; hicks get liquor

News Briefs

Let them drink booze; hicks get liquor

By Daren Lin
Gazette Staff

The Ontario government's recent announcement to create a privately-owned LCBO franchise system for under-serviced areas has raised concerns across the province.

The new franchises are designed to allow LCBO products to be sold in rural and tourist areas where it is too expensive to maintain a government-run liquor store year-round, according to Mike Hickinbotham, communications assistant to the Minister of Consumer and Business Services.

"This way the taxpayers won't lose a single dime," he said. "But when you walk into a local corner store in a resort town, you'll see the same quality LCBO products on sale as in London."

This worries Ontario Liquor Board Employees Union president John Coones. "These franchise stores will be totally controlled by the people who own them," he said, likening them to corner stores that sell beer in the United States.

"While the governments can make laws for these new stores not to sell alcohol to kids, it's difficult [for] police – look at cigarettes."

Steve Peters, Liberal MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, said he agrees with Coones' assessment. "This trend towards privatization will compromise the current security that comes with a government-controlled alcohol service," he said.

He added an increase in serving alcohol to minors and intoxicated individuals may be the result.

Despite these concerns, a lack of standards is not something to worry about, Hickinbotham said.

"The LCBO wants to ensure the same level of standards [in the crown-owned outlets] are maintained in the franchises, both in product representation and social responsibility," he said.

He added the LCBO has a proven track record and will maintain it at the new franchises with monitoring by LCBO staff.

Also in support of the move is Eric Single, director of policy and research at the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse. "Franchising is a good compromise because it doesn't represent a full form of liquor sales in Ontario," he said.

Yet it will give LCBO access to areas that are under-serviced, he said.

While not on a full scale, this move is still privatization, according to Coones. "The problem is they are trying to get in the back door of privatization without raising the ire of the public by saying rural communities need service too," he said. "But there are many ways to provide [service] without privatizing."

–with files from

Carol-Anne Thacker

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Copyright The Gazette 2001