Straight Talk
CHRISTINA BLIZZARD - LCBO strike threat solved with privatization

Tim Hudak speaks to the media in 2012 about the need to privatize the LCBO.

Credits: QMI AGENCY

CHRISTINA BLIZZARD | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO - So a guy walks into a liquor store, picks up a $26,000 bottle of scotch and a cheaper bottle of wine - and walks out of the store, paying only for the wine.

How stupid are we - on several levels?

First, how can any 700 ml of liquid be worth that kind of dough?

I defy anyone to tell the difference between that and, say, an $80 bottle. But, hey, I'd like in on the taste-testing.

Second, how come a bottle that pricey was so easily accessible?

PC leader Tim Hudak says whoever took the bottle is "stealing from taxpayers."

He's right, of course. But he shouldn't be.

Why is the government in the business of selling $26,000, 50-year-old bottles of booze?

This is a pretty niche market.

The number of people who are actually going to shell out that kind of cash for a bottle of booze is fairly limited. I'm sure the LCBO has their names.

Is someone going to walk in off the street and pick it up on impulse?

I think not.

Of course, this wouldn't happen if the LCBO were privatized.

If you were the owner of a private booze store and you were trying to flog a bottle of expensive scotch, you'd keep it behind the counter - and you'd make darn sure it got checked out with the bottle of wine.

The LCBO actually tells their employees not to chase people stealing from their stores.

You won't find any David Chen-style citizens' arrests happening in Vintages.

Then we have the threat of a strike by LCBO workers.

They've already voted 95% in favour of a strike and set a deadline of May 17 - the day before the long Victoria Day weekend.

Hudak said the deal the government cut recently with two teacher unions who punished students in their protest will embolden other public sector workers to demand more money.

"I'm concerned, when it comes to the LCBO, where the union leadership is dramatically out of touch with realities people who are not on the public payroll face every day. And they are threatening to go on strike just before the Victoria Day holiday weekend," Hudak said.

"It's because the Liberal government of (Premier) Kathleen Wynne rewards them," he said.

"The two teacher unions that held our kids hostage were given more money.

"That kind of decision by the Liberal government is going to cause more labour action as a result," he said.

Wynne said there's plenty of time for a deal.

"There's a lot of time between now and May 17 in terms of negotiations," she said. "That's a lifetime so I'm sure that both sides will be able to come together and work this out."

Am I stocking up on Chardonnay and $26,000 bottles of scotch in anticipation of a strike?

No - because I have faith in the great good sense of LCBO workers.

I think they realize that as retail workers go, they've got a pretty soft touch.

Parents were patient when powerful teacher unions selfishly held their kids hostage.

Thirsty drinkers won't stand idly by on a long weekend if liquor store workers shut stores and hit the bricks. It could get ugly.

The union, OPSEU, is not nearly as militant as the teacher unions. They understand if they shut down booze stores, there'll be increased pressure to allow competition.

In this economic climate, people are just glad to have a job.

Government of all stripes have balked at privatizing the LCBO. They're addicted to the profits and taxes they rake in from booze.

But they could allow competition.

Let us buy booze somewhere else.

Open up the market so we can get it in supermarkets and convenience stores.

Just one more question:

How many Air Miles do you get on a $26,000 bottle of Glenfiddich?

 

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