If Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak wins the next election he has said that he would end the LCBO’s near-monopoly on retail liquor sales in the province, and start “treating people like adults” by giving them a choice where to buy their booze.
Then, on the other side, Hamilton’s Board of Health has come out against the idea out of a concern that increased accessibility will lead to increased alcohol-related health and safety-related issues.
So which is it? Are Ontarians big boys and girls who can handle not having the provincial government dictating our liquor buying habits, or is the only thing stopping Ontarians from being drunk all the time the benevolent guardians of the LCBO?
For the majority, it seems unlikely that being able to pick up a bottle of wine with your milk would lead to catastrophic consequences. In fact, some grocery stores already have wine boutiques or LCBO outlets attached to them. Perhaps it does make wine more of an impulse buy, but does that convenience make it more likely that most purchasers will become problem drinkers?
It seems silly to think so.
However, just because the majority of Ontarians could handle a private sales model, doesn’t mean that it’s good for society as a whole.
For one, there are the recovering alcoholics. Alcoholism is a serious disease and for those who have to fight it every day, it can be a minute-to-minute struggle for sobriety. Many alcoholics do their best to avoid putting themselves into situations where they can be tempted to fall off the wagon, going out of their way to avoid bars and liquor stores. However, if booze were more widely available it may make it impossible for them to avoid it. For every recovering alcoholic who slips back into a life of drink, that’s one more person who goes from being a productive member of society to a potential danger to it.
Then there are teens.
A teen who wants to drink can often find a way to get liquor, be it by stealing from his or her parents’ liquor cabinet or by slipping some “cool dude” a couple of bucks to buy it for them. However, having sales controlled by the LCBO makes it harder to do.
It’s not that LCBO employees are more moral than convenience store owners, but they know if they get caught knowingly selling to a minor, they risk losing their well-paid jobs, whereas a private retailer may feel pressured to sell to minors just in order to keep the doors open. Yes, if they are caught they face harsh punishments, but if it came down to taking that risk or losing their livelihood, many would chose to make the sale.
Hudak is right, Ontarians are grown-ups, but where he’s wrong is that sometimes the majority must face restrictions on their freedoms to protect the vulnerable in society.
How many ruined lives is it worth to avoid having to go to the LCBO?