Never mind the LCBO — The Beer Store is an embarrassment
Martin Regg Cohn
Toronto Star, December 11, 2012
When it comes to beer, the right winger is right.
But before you raise a glass to Hudak, a note of caution: He also wants to sell off the LCBO, a far more complicated and controversial proposal that has no traction.
Hudak’s plan to privatize our booze stores and liberate our beer stores is, of course, a naked pitch for votes — the latest in a long line of proposals from politicians trying to profit from sour grapes among drinkers:
David Peterson mooted it in 1985, Mike Harris raised it a decade later and Dalton McGuinty revived it five years ago. But each time, Queen’s Park reconsidered the LCBO’s multi-billion-dollar cash flow and clung to it.
Rightly so. For all its faults — and I’ve written a few columns detailing them — the LCBO isn’t so bad that it can’t be fixed. The bottom line is that it’s worth more to our treasury as an ongoing government monopoly than as a privatized, atomized free-for-all.
Dismantling the booze monopoly would devalue its overall worth, diluting the final sales price and depriving the treasury of future revenues to fund government operations — without any assurance of better service (as Alberta has discovered).
Let’s set aside an LCBO sell-off for now, and consider Hudak’s better idea for beer. Not only is he right on this, it turns out most of us have the wrong idea about the Beer Store and its 440 outlets to begin with.