The Ontario Government through Premier Kathleen Wynne claims it wants to help the Ontario wine industry. This is not at all surprising considering the main centre of the industry is the Niagara region and there is a by-election scheduled there for February 13.
The jewel in the crown of Wynne’s latest
political bribe wine strategy is a new allocation of $75-million over five years to support the industry. Here’s an excerpt from a recent report by in Toronto Star:
“They’re [wine industry] local, they’re good for our economy, and they support good jobs,” she [Premier Wynne] told winemakers at the Niagara College Wine Visitor and Education Centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“In the last 30 years, this industry has just burgeoned. Your sector is an Ontario success story. We can set our heights higher and take this industry to the next level.”
The report also tells us that Wynne will allow the sale of Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wines (from Ontario-grown grapes), at farmers markets. It wasn’t that long ago the Liberals were trying to justify their stranglehold on the distribution and sale of wine by claiming that government stores were the only ones able to apply social responsibility regarding sales of alcoholic beverages.
Apparently, the operators of farmers markets are more trustworthy and socially responsible than those Ontarians who run grocery stores and convenience stores. Go figure.
This is all such crap. At every turn, Ontario governments have utilized tax and pricing strategies designed to turn plonk into a luxury item available—at least in an affordable way—to only the well-off in the province. I say “plonk” because good wines have been out of reach of the pocket books of ordinary people for decades.
Before wine even reaches the clutches of the monopoly—the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO)—it’s loaded up with sales-dampening taxes in the form of federal tax, Basic (Ontario) Tax, Volume (Ontario) Tax and Environmental (Ontario) Tax—over 30% of Ontario-levied taxes. Then, to that, LCBO adds a whopping 65.5% mark-up and, when you purchase a bottle, they add a further 13% HST. Oh, yes, a huge tax-on-tax rip-off. Of course, when governments rip you off, it’s called social responsibility. I kid you not.
If Kathleen Wynne really wanted to support Ontario’s wine industry, she would:
- eliminate tax up to the point of sale to consumers, i.e., retain the HST;
- allow free market distribution and sale, i.e., no LCBO monopoly;
- eliminate government-mandated mark-ups and minimum pricing.
Unions won’t like this, of course, and part of the reason the Grits want to hang onto LCBO retail stores is that they provide over-valued, cushy jobs to their union friends. Unions, of course, provide millions of dollars in various forms of election support for the Ontario Grits. Continuing with the LCBO is part of the tax-payer funded payback to the unions.
If the premier did as I suggest above, Ontario wines would be on the same playing field as tens of thousands of other products consumed in the province and the Niagara (and elsewhere) wine industry would thrive and she’d not have to use tokenism to buy votes in the region.