According to a report on thestar.com website, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa is brewing up changes that are designed to address the unpopular private monopoly enjoyed by foreign-owned beer companies Labatt, Molson and Sleeman through their ownership of the Beer Store.
A section of Ontario’s Liquor Control Act gives the Beer Store a monopoly as the only private firm allowed to sell beer directly to consumers without brewing it on its premises. This status is, apparently, being challenged by lawsuits such as the one launched by a Burlington pub owner in a potential class-action against the LCBO and Beer Store.
The legal challenge comes on the heels of Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn’s story about a secret 14-year-old pact that limits competition between the provincially owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the privately owned Beer Store.
According to Regg Cohn’s story, the LCBO agreed it would sell only six-packs of beer to consumers and would not sell two-fours to restaurants and bars.
“We’re going to maximize the benefits to consumers and protect the industry at the same time. We’ll review the whole thing,” said Finance Minister Charles Sousa who, reportedly, will unveil changes in his budget in March.
Readers have probably heard of the ten scariest words in the English language: I’m from the government and I’m here to help you. Well, hang on to your hats because Sousa’s words seem to convey similar sentiments, i.e., “We’re going to maximize the benefits to consumers ….”
When the Ontario government—yes, the McGuinty-Wynne government—says it plans to maximize benefits to consumers, they are using code for we’ll gouge more money out of you, but we’ll call it a benefit. The Ontario Grits are all about tax and spend and making cosy deals with their friends and financial benefactors. Consumers are their cash cows.
I’m sure Sousa will make some changes. He needs to address the Beer Store’s status, which is becoming a real embarrassment to his government. And may be beer, especially craft beer, will be more available, perhaps more convenient to buy.
But count on beer still being taxed and marked up to the hilt and still being tightly controlled and though we were a province of ten-year-olds who need Granny Wynne to take care of us and make us pay through the nose for the privilege.