Putting the LCBO out of its misery.

Limp half measures by people who have no idea where they are going seem to be the action plan for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). What else would you expect from an organization run by a bunch of lawyers and has-been politicians? Who else would you expect to screw up a $5 billion business so badly?

The most serious problem with the way the LCBO is run is that the government has to settle for $1.7 billion in revenues this year when it could have done much better. And this is not considering the revenues just from the sales of LCBO stores, new licenses and the ongoing revenues from a centralized buying agency for the province.

Because nobody is suggesting that we sell off the only benefit Ontario has gained from the LCBO to-date. That is that this agency is the largest centralized purchaser of wine and spirits in the world. Run properly as a wholesaler of wines and spirits, nobody could compete with it. While private retailers would want the opportunity to arrange special buys and labelling from wineries around the world, there is no reason why the former LCBO importer and distributer could not also provide that service to these deals. The profits from that business alone would not be unsubstantial.

Licensing and inspecting wine and spirits retailers, grocery stores and convenience stores will be a huge task and a serious revenue generator for Ontario. There will be no lack of work for former LCBO employees. Privatization will generate more jobs in the long run. Convenience stores that want to sell beer and wine will have to hire adults to manage their stores at all times. Privatized liquor stores will vie to hire wine experts and knowledgeable bartenders to advise a more challenging clientele. And we have not even mentioned the growing tax revenue from smarter marketing.

We can forget the people who are being really stupid on this question. They are the bluestockings who still think they should have a say on how we sell beer, wine and liquor. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) no longer holds sway in Ontario. Ignorance is no excuse for politicians to think they should support the status quo. Times have changed. The private sector can do a far better job of providing the service to the public that Ontario wants.

This is not an issue to be argued between political parties. It is an issue that sensible people see as a foolish anachronism and the politician who continues to fight the issue is going to be put out to pasture.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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