In Ontario, an eventual election is on the horizon. One of the wedge issues is expected to be the deregulation of alcohol. Should we regulate alcohol, like it is done (for the most part) in Ontario, or deregulate them, like they have them in Quebec?
I have not made up my mind on the subject however I am becoming more reluctant to support its deregulation. In a week, at the invitation of a friend, Ruby Latif, I will be attending a Queens Park event to lobby elected officials and expose them to "awareness on the issue of deregulation of alcohol in Ontario". I am certainly going.
Beer Store President, Ted Moroz, recently came out against deregulation, warning that "alcohol prices will increase if the provincial government deregulates the sale of booze". He added, "Drinkers should expect to pay an average of $10 more for a two-four if corner stores are allowed to sell suds".
Mr. President, the saving of petty change should not be the main reason why one should or should not support deregulation -- at least for me.
Then again, when I lived in Ottawa, many Ontarians often travelled to the alcohol deregulated Hull, Quebec to purchase cheap alcohol. It was indeed cheaper and more convenient there. Without endorsing the notion of government knows best, I believe the debate should come down to the health and well-being of our population. This is the role of decent governments at its best -- to protect us from vulnerability.
I do not need to read studies nor expert perspectives to know that alcohol is addictive and a potential health hazard. I have seen close family members livelihood literally destroyed in earnest as a direct result of alcohol and I have understood through them it is addictive especially when its accessible easily.
The Ontario government, that has been hungry for public money, has looked at the expansion of the sale of alcohol, casinos and lotteries to pay for basic government services. A year ago, it even started a trial project offering all kinds of alcohol at grocery stores. In addition, it plans to target the youth population to be addicted to lotteries by paying for targeted advertisements.
Have we run of ideas? Are these good government decisions? They certainly are not.
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA), motivated by the idea of making easy profits for its members, has called for deregulation and the sale of alcohols in corner stores ASAP. The group has even pointed out polls that show most Ontarians support competition. "What we're offering is more access, more convenience," the head of the association reflected with the Toronto Sun. "On a hot summer day; you could walk to your local convenience store and buy your six beers and your bottle of wine."
That is exactly why I am reluctant to support deregulation. Unless I hear better perspectives for deregulation, the convenience and access of alcohol, highly addictive products, are good reasons why they should continue to be regulated.
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