That's right, folks, I said it: The LCBO is a government sponsored monopoly. Naturally they refute this claim instead offering up the same tired old excuses that basically amount to them being the only thing that's preventing us from becoming a province of naught but slovenly drunkards.
The actual writing of this rant has come a little closer to fruition every time talks of privatization have fallen through, the staff threatens (or goes on) a strike or they delist (ie. won't sell anymore) Black & White. I saw something flowing through various news sites, however, that's finally gotten my ire up to the level where I actually feel like sitting down and writing. So here goes:
Welcome our HST overlords
If you live in Ontario and understand the HST, you can skip this bit. For the uninformed, however, here's a dime store synopsis which, aside from being flawed in many other ways I'm sure, gives you my take on the shitstorm that's been blowing around various parts of Ontario for the last couple weeks.
In the beginning, there was one: The PST (Province Screws Taxpayer). As a reward for spending your money in Ontario, most of the things you bought would have a few extra percent tacked on (most recently 8) to feed the wonderfully effective machine that is our provincial government. This in and of itself wasn't unique to Ontario, most provinces in the country would afford you the same privilege, albeit with varying applications and rates.
In 1989, however, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney got sick of stuffing his pockets with Karlheinz Schreiber's breifcases full of money and promised Canadians that they should fear no more, the federal government would step in and start taking a cut as well. They called this the GST (Government Screws Taxpayer) and it was introduced to the country in 1991 (or 1990, whichever wasn't the last year for leaded gas).
Effective today (July 1st, 2010... Canada Day, ironically), our illustrious leader has decided that, after 7 years and a bevy of new ones, he'd live up to his promise of freezing taxes by taking the road less travelled: Re-jigging one that already exists. Essentially, the new HST (Ha, Screwed Taxpayer) brings the various items on which you'd pay PST in line with the ones on which you'd pay GST which basically means, at the end of the day, the price of some things will be increasing 8%. Whether, ultimately, this is good or bad for the province is the subject of another rant (one which I feel will be coming shortly as I get sick of listening to kneejerk reactions from assorted blowhards and the NDP) but it's relevance to the topic at hand is thus:
Yesterday, alcohol in Ontario carried a provincial tax of between 10 and 12%. Under the new Ha Screwed Taxpayer regime, this works out to our advantage (in theory) because instead of 10-12% provincial and 5% federal taxes (15-17% total, for the mathily uninclined among us) we'd be paying a cool 13%. Good deal, you might be saying to yourself, I can run down to the LC and outfit myself Lahey-style for a few less bucks. Well, yourself, you'd be wrong. They have a moral imperative to save you from yourself.
Yup, as previously mentioned, the only reason Ontario as a whole hasn't fallen apart and not every teenager is a raging alcoholic is thanks to the fine work being done by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Hah, sorry folks, I couldn't even type that with a straight face.
First of all, LCBO, stop claiming that you're the only thing keeping every Ontario teenager from turning in to a first-class booze hound. In this province, the legal drinking age is 19, the same age at which you can buy cigarettes. I always found it extremely difficult to procure the latter myself, but I've been buying alcohol from your stores since I was 14. The first time I ever got asked for ID was the day after my 19th birthday and only because my old man was jerking around. Talk about an "Oh shit" face.
Your moral imeraptive, or so you claim, also extends to keeping alcohol from become so cheap as to be easily acquired by people with problems. As mentioned above, not only was an unemployed teenager able to afford alcohol on a somewhat regular basis, but you put alcohol on sale. Yes, you put it on sale. We all know how the basic idea of a sale works, right? Even if it's an inconsequential amount (say two bucks off a 60 pounder of whiskey), it's a temporary situation which invokes the scarcity response and can convert a "well maybe" to a "yes". See what you did there? You just sold alcohol to someone who may not have bought it in the first place. And yes, you heard right, there are sale tags. And product everywhere. Like a retail store.
In the days of yore of which I thankfully only have to hear, purchasing liquor from the LCBO was a very differrent beast. You'd walk in, basically write what you wanted on a piece of paper and someone would go get it from the back. No aesthetically-pleasing stackouts, no eye-catching sale signs and most assuredly no mocktails.
Mocktails? From the LCBO?
You heard right: The Liquor Control Board selling drinks that don't contain liquor. I should note now that they might always have done this, but most of my trips to the liquor store are for, well, liquor. Maybe at the far outside I could see how they do this as a convenience, but that's kind of my point: You're no longer about controlling access to liquor, you're about making money.
Why would I say such a thing? Well, folks, it's simple: They make no compunctions of telling us how much money they make. Every time an issue like privatization comes up or every time a fiscal year end approaches, the masturbatory signs go up and we're bombarded with how many barrels of money the LCBO brought in for the province.
So, folks, I'm sick of hearing about how we need this antiquated government sanctioned monopoly. My suggestion? Treat alcohol the same way we treat cigarettes: Put it in convenience stores and trust people to do their jobs, we're not all unionized. Spare me the sob stories about how it'll make alcohol more attractive, you lost that argument the second you started overtly advertising. Plus, based on my 16-year-stint as a customer of your fine establishment, the private sector seems to do a much better job at controlling access to stuff, as well.