You wonder sometimes if anyone is ever going to tell the truth about Ontario’s Beer Store. For more than 90 years, this restrictive system of selling beer has been foisted on the province’s beer buyers. It has provided profits for brewers and sinecure for our politicians and nobody has ever shed much light on the profits and the cashflows.
It must have been someone’s idea of an April Fool’s joke a few weeks ago when it was reported by the Beer Store headquarters that the beer retail operations had lost $50 million last year. I must admit that as a public relations professional in my business life, I never lied. You hardly need to—as there are so many ways of telling the truth. I expect the Beer Store operation did sell less beer last year. It would hardly impact the Beer Store masters—the brewers—who would have more than filled the gap with increased prices and sales through the liquor control board outlets and large grocery stores.
And no doubt the members at Queen’s Park got their political donations. It is only politicians on the outside, looking in, who promise voters that they will be able to buy beer at convenience stores. Your corner store is in the business of convenience, elected politicians are not.
But it seems the Beer Store benefits can also mean largess for others. In an op-ed in the business section of the Toronto Star the other day, we found out that the Beer Store has four independent directors—people not on a brewer’s payroll. This opinion piece was signed by the chief operating officer of the Ontario municipal employees’ retirement system (OMERS).
It read to me as though some public relations person had written it for him and all he did was take the credit. The op-ed discussed the accounting losses and how the Beer Store revenues were really fees charged to the brewers. It also lauded the Beer Store’s environmental stewardship for collecting some two billion used beverage alcohol containers from customers. It claimed that the stores took back 95 per cent of the refillable beer bottles and about 70 per cent of the 602 million wine and spirits containers sold by the LCBO and grocers.
Maybe the Beer Store should change its name to the Used Beer Bottle Place. They obviously do a much better job on recycling than selling beer.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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