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.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is the arm's length agency of the provincial government which has the statutory authority under the Liquor Control Act to control the sale, transportation, and delivery of liquor, as well as fixing the prices at which they are to be sold.
Certainly the stakes are high on both sides. In all likelihood, it seems highly doubtful that the strike will go through. Yet a strike is in no one's best interests. The LCBO management stands to lose lucrative revenue to a shuttering of stores, but workers may also suffer in the long run should a strike vote pass. Both parties should be prepared to afford each other leeway and reach an appropriate conclusion.
Tim Hudak released a white paper in 2012 which called for "increased choice and competition in alcohol retailing." Kelly McParland in the National Post argued in December that if voters really wanted a privatized LCBO, the change would already have been implemented. Premier David Peterson (Liberal) and Mike Harris (PC) both promised privatization but ultimately never followed through on the promise. Premier Kathleen Wynne, discussing the potential strike, argued that it would not be necessary to revisit the way alcohol is sold and noted that the LCBO "functions very well."
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. Already, recent mentions in major media outlets are noting increased calls for some form of privatization.
If privatization were to pass and LCBO revenues were to decrease, the next contracts for the workers will likely be a lot stingier. The LCBO currently provides a $1.63 billion dividend to the Ontario government and had total sales of $4.7 billion in 2011-2012.
There will not be a complete lack of availability of alcohol, however, if a strike action occurs. The Beer Store and a number of breweries and wineries will be open for business. Additionally, LCBO agency stores, which are independent retailers authorized to sell alcohol, are not staffed by OPSEU-unionized workers, and will also be open.
Remember Don Drummond, the TD Bank chief economist whose 2012 report called for massive cutbacks in government spending, including in education and health care spending? He also made suggestions on improving the LCBO's returns. Far from downscaling or privatizing the LCBO, the Drummond report recommended that the LCBO be directed to improve its markup structure for setting retail prices and to more aggressively pursue store expansion.
The government likely will not intervene as it did during the dispute with teachers, when it passed Bill 115 to impose contracts on teachers (and later repealed the legislation). This bill contained in its preamble a reference to the "public interest" and the need to "protect the gains made in the education system." The distribution of liquor, by contrast, is certainly more of an individualistic want than a societal need.
These factors should all be taken into account during these crucial moments before the deadline is reached.
Originally published in The Prince Arthur Herald.
Canada is a beer nation, so it's a relief that those symbolic 2-4's will still be available for Victoria Day. The Beer Store duly obliges in offering customers over 350 types of beer, and some select locations will have extended hours on Sunday. (Check your local store for details.)
Several branches of the Vineyard Estates have now converted their name under the banner of the Wine Shop., and some locations will be open through Monday, so check the stores near you.
Dial-A-Bottle delivers everything from beer to liquor to cigarettes and pop to people’s doorsteps in various locations across Southern Ontario, but LCBO spokeswoman Heather MacGregor said those service providers also get supplies from places like the LCBO. “What that looks like, what type of product is available, what types of lines they’ll encounter will be the same for them as it will be for everyone else,” she said.
With more than 160 stores mainly in Southern Ontario and other outlets located in North Bay, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, the Wine Rack announced that it would remain open leading up to and during the labour strike. Thirty Wine Rack locations will be open on Monday in tourism designated locations across the province.
While the Steam Whistle brewery is located in the heart of the downtown Toronto, customers from Hamilton to Oshawa, and as far north as Aurora and Whitchurch-Stouffville can get home delivery of bottles, cans, and draught kegs made all week long. The Toronto brewery remains open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, while closing at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Free complimentary beers are still available through the weekend and on Monday when the brewery is open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. with tours offered every half hour.
Mill St. Brewery underwent an expansion of its Toronto Distillery district location earlier this year and added The Beer Hall. Customers can go to its retail store at the same location this weekend, open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday. The Brew Pub remains open until late for those looking to come back for more later on in the night. The Brew Pub also has an Ottawa location, which is also open through Monday.
Situated near the U.S. border, the Taps Brewing Company in Niagara Falls brews on site and offers a variety of natural beers starting at only $4.65 a pint. They are open throughout Victoria Day weekend, from 12 p.m. to midnight on Sunday, and from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Monday.
The Old Credit Brewing Co. Ltd in Mississauga crafts three distinct beers — Amber Ale, Pale Pilsner and Holiday Honey — in small batches and is open on Sunday and Monday from 12 pm. to 5 p.m. On Tuesdays to Saturdays, the brewery at 6 Queen St. West is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Amsterdam Brewery was recently presented with six trophies, including the Gold award, and Beer of the Year for its Spring Bock brew, at the 10th Annual Ontario Brewing Awards. Its retail operations will remain open over the course of the weekend, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday.
The Clocktower Brewhouse consists of a main brewery and four restaurants around Ottawa that are all open over the weekend holiday, from 10:00 a.m. to 2 a.m. on the weekend and 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. throughout the week and on Victoria Day. However, a spokesman says that the hours could extend later.
Another brewery located on the U.S. border — this one with Detroit — the Walkerville Brewery’s retail outlets in Windsor are open from Thursdays to Saturday from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. On Sundays, they will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The brewers are legally allowed to open from 9 a.m. and operate until 11 p.m. because they are located in a tourism-heavy district, but they have yet to decide whether to open on Victoria Day.
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