I am not thrilled. Not really all that moved. The cornerstone of the big beer retail reform announcement that by two years from now there may be 150 grocery store licenses to sell beer to 13,000,000 Ontarians can quickly be boiled down. The reality is that as my town represents 1% of the provinces population that is an average allocation of 1.5 licenses for this city. On average.
If you have a look at the report issued by the Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets chaired by Ed Clark you see the other problem. At page 33 we see that licences “will be granted in urban areas”; “will be granted in a manner to ensure a fair representation of privately owned grocers”; and most importantly “will be issued through a competitive process based on the discount off the retail price at which grocers will purchase the beer from the LCBO.” So, there are no rural stores getting anything, it’s an auction that everyone gets a shot at but those with the deepest pockets will win. So most will end up in Toronto and maybe Ottawa because that’s where the best return will be made for the few holders of these licences. I am expecting little local change from the grocery store in initiative. Your grocery list is not “about to get a whole new look.”
But that is only one element of the whole. If you look at that headline up there, it is a quote from the introduction from last November’s interim report from the Advisory Council. It literally smacks of paternalism given there was no real public input in the process – but, despite that, there are still there are other other new initiatives that will create more interesting change. I think I will look at those bit by bit. There is a lot to look at. First, however, I think I am going to look at the process, how we got here – including how historically only the temperance movement from the 1870s to the 1920s triggered actual broad public input in the reform of alcohol sales. That was the only time that our betters were not firmly in control. Those times of referendum after referendum were very unOntarian. Ontarians actually like being controlled by their betters. And that won’t be changing anytime soon from the look of yesterday’s announcement.