Credits: Craig Robertson/ Toronto Sun/ QMI Agency
TORONTO — A Tim Hudak Ontario government would end the province’s beer and liquor monopolies and allow the sale of alcohol in private outlets, such as corner and grocery stores, the PC leader promised.
Hudak unveiled his vision for the government-owned LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) Tuesday, which could involve selling off all or parts of the LCBO, but would definitely prevent the expansion of the stores in Ontario.
“Let’s let the private sector into the alcohol business,” Hudak said. “It’s time to end the LCBO and Beer Store monopolies.
“You can cross the border at any point in Ontario — whether you’re going to New York, Quebec, Michigan, Minnesota or Manitoba — and you drive into a province or state where you actually can buy alcohol in more outlets than just government-run stores.”
The proposal did not go down smoothly with everyone.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), said as many as 10,000 workers could lose their jobs across the province if the LCBO were privatized.
“How many times are we going to go down this same, old path of selling off the incredibly profitable LCBO?” Thomas said in a statement. “Mike Harris tried it and he backed off. Dalton McGuinty tried it and he backed off ... because the people of Ontario have told the government over and over again they want the LCBO to stay in public hands.”
Jeff Newton, a spokesman for The Beer Store, said putting alcohol in convenience stores would drive up distribution costs and, as a result, the price of beer.
Finance Minister Dwight Duncan looked at selling off the LCBO but said it would trade a steady revenue stream -- $1.6 billion a year to the provincial treasury -- for short-term gain.
“(The Tories) campaigned on privatization in ‘95 and the only thing they really sold was Hwy. 407 and that was a bad deal for Ontario,” Duncan said.
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns Ontario said the LCBO pays for important public services such as schools and hospitals.
Hudak said the Liberals and NDP don’t trust Ontario adults to buy alcohol in places like convenience stores.
“I think the public is far ahead of the politicians on this issue,” he said.
The LCBO proposals will be included in a new Tory white paper coming out Thursday called “A New Deal for the Public Sector,” which recommends a leaner government.