The LCBO's plan to open express outlets in several large grocery stores and to set up boutique outlets for the sale of wines is a step in the right direction for the future of alcohol sales in Ontario, said the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
In endorsing the move, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of OPSEU, which represents LCBO workers at retail outlets, distribution centres and at head office, said in a news release that consumers want the LCBO to remain in public hands, but they also want to see greater convenience and the same high level of social responsibility that the LCBO provides.
“This approach is balanced and that is what people like to see,” he said.
Thomas said the government's announcement Dec. 31, giving the LCBO the green light to open up sales in grocery stores and specialty wine outlets, effectively derails Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's pledge to put beer and wine in corner stores and to begin the privatization of the LCBO itself.
“Tim Hudak is on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to the future of the LCBO,” said Thomas. “The public wants to see it remain a valued public asset that contributes attractive annual dividends to help pay for education, health care and infrastructure.”
Denise Davis, chair of OPSEU's liquor board employees division, said the LCBO should go one step further and begin repatriating privately owned and operated “agency” stores once their current contracts expire. Some of these high-revenue outlets are located in major grocery stores already and could easily be converted into regular LCBO retail outlets.
She said in the press release that LCBO Chair Philip Olsson told public hearings in Trenton, Ont., last June that he was prepared to repatriate some agency stores, few of which carry quality Ontario wines or Ontario-produced craft beers.
“With the government's announcement this week, it's time Mr. Olsson acted on his promise to convert some agency stores into regular LCBO outlets,” said Davis.
“As it stands, many of these stores together take in millions in annual private commission fees — money that more properly should be going to the provincial treasury but which do little for Ontario's wine industry or craft brewers.”