Thursday, August 21, 2014

Uncorking the same old whoppers about privatizing beer and liquor sales in Ontario

The CD Howe Institute has released yet another "research paper" decrying the monopolies held over liquor and beer distribution in Ontario. Given the sorry state of journalism in the land, their "study" immediately became news in every newspaper in the province.

Liberating beer and liquor distribution from the private monopoly The Beer Store and the government owned LCBO would improve service and selection, reduce prices, and increase net revenues to the government - all the same arguments made a year ago the last time this issue was "news".

Those with long memories will also recall the exact same arguments being made as Alberta considered getting out of the booze biz over twenty years ago, which they did. How has that worked out?

Great and not that great...

The number of places to buy booze has gone up exponentially and they stay open later, greatly reducing the number of people who have to jump in their car, or rather their pick-up truck, and race to the government store to grab another two four and a forty pounder five minutes before closing time! Instead, now you just have to stagger to the liquor store down the block, because every block is sure to have at least one or two.

The number of brands available has gone up exponentially as well. I remember the bad old days of the government monopoly. You were limited to Canadian and Blue in the beer aisle, and Seagrams VO or Golden Wedding in the liquor aisle, and there were only two aisles! Wine had not yet been introduced to Alberta, as the only wine-drinkers in the province were a few gay guys who worked in the accounting departments at the big oil companies. That's a true fact; ask anybody who lived in Alberta in the late 70s.

Now, gays are everywhere, and they have 19,000 plus brands to choose from! So if you're a gay pipe welder in Fort Mac, privatization has been a godsend!

On the other hand, prices haven't come down, government revenues have plunged, and thousands of jobs that once paid a living wage became non-union minimum wage jobs.

This last point tends to be underplayed or ignored altogether by the right-wing think-tanks who put these "studies" together. Full time workers at The Beer Store and the LCBO still make a living wage. Privatize them and those will be poverty level jobs.

Could this be the real agenda of the anti-monopolists?

1 comment:

  1. The real agenda is not having the government decide for you what legal product you are allowed to buy. Society decides what any job is valued at and cashiers and stock boys aren't that high on the list. The government distorts that value resulting in higher prices for the consumer. Monopolies have no incentive to be efficient or to provide the best price or service to the consumer because they have no competition.

    Freedom of choice is always better for the consumer, restriction of choice is only better from those who benefit from that restriction.