Today, viticulture is thriving in Ontario, with more than 180 wineries responsible for just over 70 per cent of total Canadian wine production, contributing an estimated $3.3 billion to the province's economy in 2011, many thousands of direct and indirect jobs, as well as $644 million in tourism and tourism employment, according to the Ontario Winery and Grower Alliance of Ontario.
The looming LCBO strike threat has suddenly gotten all sorts of Ontarians anxious about a potentially dry next few days (or weeks). LCBO workers, who are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), voted 95 per cent in favour of striking, and the deadline is approaching. Yet a strike is in no one's best interests. Now, this entire scenario would change if the availability of alcohol were to be completely diminished. This inconvenience may cause citizens to want an alternative to the LCBO in the event it is rendered incapable by a strike.
Political leaders are again debating what to do with the LCBO. Some want to privatize it. Some want to retain the status quo. Rather than rely on the yearly profits from a single corporation, the government should auction off the right to operate alcohol wholesale operations and retail stores to the highest bidder. This would not be a full privatization, but effectively a franchising.
Each time we go to our favourite wine shop in B.C., we'd leave a little bit exhilarated and a little bit saddened. Consoling ourselves over a bottle of a new found gem, we would fantasize about the wine shop we would run back home in Ontario if given the chance, and wonder aloud if our province would ever get with the program as BC had? Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when the Wine Council of Ontario invited us to a briefing to discuss that very possibility. For the last few years, WCO has been conducting studies on the value of opening Ontario's wine market to independent entrepreneurs. Of course, wine and alcohol can be a contentious and divisive issue.