The tragedy of Ontario’s ‘beer commons’

A dispatch from Alberta: land of liquor-retail privatization

Adrian Wyld/CP

Adrian Wyld/CP

It is encouraging to see so much ridicule being flung at the Beer Store’s “study” defending its role in the Soviet-flavoured Ontario liquor retailing system. The effectiveness of the Beer Store’s white paper depends on its Ontario audience knowing no practical details of freer retail schemes, particularly Alberta’s: yet, by an amusing paradox, the ur-source for the report appears to be Alberta. No one was willing to attach his name to the report itself, but it comes with a foreword by the Parkland Institute’s Greg Flanagan, who deems it a “valuable contribution”—one that, on an unrelated note, makes heavy use of Flanagan’s own past polemics against liquor privatization. What a terrible shame nobody took credit for this excellent document!

I think one sentence emblematizes the self-interestedness of the white paper well:

Although sometimes referred to as a monopoly the Beer Store might be more accurately described as a “beer commons”.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at such a verbal pirouette, so reminiscent of the deftness with which the Ontario horse racing industry attempted to defend similar interests against the forces of free trade and common sense. But if you are more interested in the nitty-gritty, the main trick used in the Beer Store report is to uphold average retail prices for beer and liquor as an indicator that Alberta consumers have been played false. The spread in prices is never mentioned; there is no reporting on the standard deviation of Alberta retail prices on like items, for example.

The effect of liquor-retail privatization in Alberta was to put liquor stores in many small towns that did not have them before and on darn near every block in the big cities. Most, by design, are small stores with large markups. Before privatization you had a handful of stores in the entire province, all offering strongly regulated uniform prices. But you might have to travel a long way to get the advantage of these prices; you might have to leave work early to show up before closing, particularly if you intended to load up for a weekend or a party; and you might have to stand in a queue when you arrived. (Ah, memories.) And if you didn’t compute your needs accurately and you ran out of booze at the wrong moment, you were out of luck.

After privatization, there are stores everywhere, open all the time, on every day but Christmas; and you might be charged an extra buck on a 12-pack. Go on: ask 10 Albertans who are old enough to remember the old system if they would like to go back. I’ve actually performed this exercise, and I usually get ten “hell no”s. But if you make your sample a hundred, you will certainly find a person or two in one of two categories: (1) socialists nostalgic for the days when ALCB employees were duly organized, and could shut down all liquor sales in the province by striking; (2) geriatric grouches who really don’t enjoy alcohol and don’t like its ready availability and what’s with those goddamn kids these days with the reefer and the XBox and the hey hey hey.

Leaving the issue of convenience aside, it might seem obvious that having five hundred liquor stores in a big city, as opposed to five, is a natural advantage to the bargain-hunter who cares primarily about price. If this does seem obvious, give yourself a gold star. It is obvious. The Beer Store never compares the lowest prices available in Alberta to the lowest prices available in hyperregulated Ontario.

Similar shell games are played when it comes to the subjects of public revenue and customer choice. The report admits that liberalization caused public alcohol revenues to explode in Alberta, and that you may believe this, here’s another highly amusing passage from the Beer Store’s Economist With No Name:

In the two decades following retail deregulation [alcohol revenues] grew to $687 million… this increase in government revenues over time is cited by some deregulation proponents as evidence that Alberta has not only maintained but increased its liquor revenues.

I give you Alberta, my friends: a bizarre fairytale land where a staggering increase in revenues is “cited as evidence” that revenues have increased.

The report goes on to argue, and by “argue” I mean “just come out and insist”, that the proper measure of government revenue is not the total gross, but the revenue collected “per litre of absolute alcohol sold”. This is what’s known in the hard sciences as “fishing around for an endpoint that seems to make your case most effectively”. Why I as a consumer and citizen ought to care about a quantity calculated on a denominator of “absolute alcohol”, only the gods of horse hockey can say.

As for product selection, the Beer Store observes that the LCBO has a main product list of “around 3,400” items and buys about 12,000 more on consignment by request. It also claims that Alberta’s centralized warehouse imports “over 10,000” kinds of booze, citing a study done, in, er, 2003. Invisible Ghost Economist probably could have called up the manager of the Alberta liquor distributor and gotten a more up-to-date number in an afternoon, but you can’t dial a phone with spooky ectoplasmic fingers. The figure given on the distributor website in the year 2014, however, is “over 20,000” products.

From there the white paper goes on to fart around with averages some more. This will come as a brutal shock, but the mean Alberta liquor store, which is located in a space five feet across between a 7-Eleven and an accounting office, does not have very impressive selection. If you actually live in Alberta, you learn pretty quickly to find the posh stores that do, in fact, have it. Put in the language used by Dr. Flanagan in his foreword,

Beer and inexpensive wines dominate sales, so the small outlets concentrate on these most marketable products. If one were to shop the province it is possible to find different prices and reasonable choice. However, the reality for most consumers is the need to patronize a number of different local retailers to find adequate product choice while at the same time resigning themselves to pay local prices.

To put it in plainer English, Albertans go to one store when they just have a spur-of-the-moment hankering to split a bottle of Jack Daniels with somebody; they probably go to a larger, more price-conscious retailer, probably still in their own neighbourhood, if they want to lay in a proper supply; and they go to Grapes & Grains or the Chateau Louis if they are feeling picky or they want to impress a guest. This brain-splitting phenomenon is known in esoteric scholarly circles as a “market”.

If Dr. Flanagan is truly paralyzed by the quest for “adequate product choice” as he defines it, someone should tell him about LiquorConnect.com, which will, I swear, literally draw you a map leading to the nearest bottle of Bols advocaat. As to Ontario, it certainly makes no difference to me whether it can be made to swallow a belief in the moral superiority of a “beer commons”. If anything I would prefer not to lose such a rich source of perpetual mirth.




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The tragedy of Ontario’s ‘beer commons’

  1. It’s truly astounding how mired in ideological quicksand most pundits are when it comes to the alcohol monopoly. These articles long ago ceased to be informative and now just simply argue for privatization on no other basis than free market ideology demands it.

    • Free to choose should be default and you left wing types should explain why many countries, and other provs, sell alcohol through regular stores but it is impossible here in Ont.

      • No, you free market types should explain why the change is necessary or beneficial. Reversing the onus because you can’t make a convincing case is absurd.

        • Done. See my comment above.

        • Wow! Just wow! So, the default position is that we should be at the mercy of the government unless we can make a compelling, oh, I’m sorry, a “convincing” case for why we should be free. Wow!!!

    • The Beer Store is private. It’s like having all automobile or grocery sales controlled by a central monopoly. As for “no other reason than free market ideology demands it”…. well, that just plain wrong. There are many reasons to support getting rid of a private monopoly: price, availability (both locations and hours), competition, etc. Did you know that smaller brewers in Ontario have a constant battle for shelf space and exposure in Ontario Beer Stores? We the consumers have no say in that.

      Take the time to read the “study”. There’s a point where cherry picking and twisting data crosses a line awfully close to blatant lying to further one’s case. Even the most charitable reader might conclude they’ve done so.

      If your version of socialism means benefitting a very few multinational corporations at the expense of consumers and local industry, then go ahead and count me in as rabid free marketer.

      • Did you know that smaller brewers in Ontario have a constant battle for shelf space and exposure in Ontario Beer Stores?

        That will likely be an even greater concern if convenience stores become the main retailers; they will want to stock only high-volume products.

        I am by and large in favour of doing away with the monopoly, but this would likely be one downside, for those who actually like the smaller breweries’ products. I would be one such, but I don’t consume enough to make much of a difference and – as I generally prefer wine – could easily go to the LCBO for a one-stop shopping experience.

        • Arguing monopoly should continue to accommodate a niche in the market is weak. If there’s demand, you’ll be able to find the product you want, The government doesn’t regulate soft drink sales to ensure everyone has access to Cherry Coke.

          • You did note that I said “I am by and large in favour of doing away with the monopoly”, right? Wasn’t arguing against getting rid of the monopoly; merely pointing out a possible consequence.

        • Do you think microbrews don’t exist in other jurisdictions with liberalized beer sales?

          The evidence doesn’t support your case.

          • Just going by my two-decades-old experience from my NL youth. Most of the convenience stores carried only the more popular labels; if you drank something a little off-the-wall, it often meant a visit to a Brewer’s Retail or the NL Liquor Store.

          • Your fear that not every hole-in-the-wall convenience store will carry every beer in the universe is well-founded. However, Alberta (in 2014) has greater overall selection and is far friendlier to small brewers than Ontario (in 2014). What Newfoundland in 1994 has to do with anything, I am not certain.

          • Possibly not a lot; just offering up what little anecdotal experience I have with such a system :-)

          • Microbrews are a more recent trend, and NF was poor and still is isolated and sparsely populated. In Ontario, competition and superior supply chains make offering a greater assortment possible. But small convenience stores will always offer just the mainline options. Same goes with their other offerings.

            In Ontario, currently, it’s very difficult for microbrews to get space in the Beer Store, and due to the design of the stores, they get very little exposure so require advertising to drive discovery.

          • I think that varies from store to store (just as it would in a demonopolized market). Some of the stores in Brampton have a pretty wide selection with decent selection easy to find; others do have it more hidden away. The stores where you can wander through the whole cooler unit are the ones where it is easiest to find the microbrewed; the stores where you just have one wall fed from the back and a few floor displays, not so much.

          • Yes, it’s gotten better. But I want to be able to order microbrews online and have them delivered to me. Not have to limit myself to what the Beer Store deigns to carry.

          • Is there anywhere in Canada that allows that? Given the requirement to prove age, I would have thought that to still be a no-no.

        • I think you’re missing the point: the Ontario model is a centrally-managed monopoly with relatively weak market inputs. If you want shelf space for your product, you have to either lobby the bureaucracy and try to persuade them to carry it. If you’re a consumer who’s heard of something new, you have to ask them to order it and hope that the bureaucracy decides it’s worth the effort. Compare that to a small private liquor store – say a nice one, like Edgemont Liquor Store in North Vancouver’s Edgemont Village. The store owner will bring stuff in for you, and hosts producers on a regular basis who want to get people to try their product. It’s a more nimble business because they know their local customer base, and are working to address what their customers want. That’s the idea of a free market. Ontario’s system is Soviet-style central planning, albeit far more competent.

          • Nice if you can get your local store to do that, but odds are most will be convenience stores with minimum-wage staff who don’t really care what you want and whose owners will just stock what moves fastest.

            Like I say, I’m not opposed to the elimination of the monopoly; I just don’t buy the argument that it will make it easier for the microbreweries to sell their product.

          • Microbrews just aren’t going to reach the guy who’s buying Wildcat. There’s going to be different shops targeting different parts to the market. The thing is, in a free market you can buy a coffee at 7-11, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, or your local independent artisanal coffee house. It’s all coffee, but there’s a big difference between what you get at 7-11 and some hand-pulled espresso shot. What we don’t have is a government-owned coffee shop monopoly that decides what kind of coffee gets sold.

          • Well, there’s only one way we’ll ever know for sure which one of us is right – and that’s if the Ontario government ends the Beer Store’s monopoly. Maybe when that happens we can then bet on the outcome for the microbrews; until then we are speculating.

          • Have you looked at the number of microbreweries operating in Alberta?

          • Have you? Or the number in Ontario? Or relative market share? Or the multiple other factors that would come into play in two different markets?

            All speculation until it happens.

          • Keith, here is a map that shows the locations in Calgary where you can buy Village Brewery beer, a craft label that launched less than two years ago. http://www.villagebrewery.com/map

            In Alberta you actually can’t get a drink at the convenience store like you can in Quebec: you have to go to a dedicated liquor store (which are about as ubiquitous). In my semi-inner-city neighbourhood there are two hole-in-the-wall joints within walking distance and one pretty big independent store with an extensive selection of scotches and wine and a pretty decent selection of beers. A short drive away is the Co-op Liquor store, run by a large local grocery co-op, which looks exactly like a large LCBO but quite a bit nicer than what I remember (granted, it’s been a number of years). Here’s the Co-op (one of eight in the city) in all it’s wide angle glory: http://www.flickr.com/photos/coopwinesandspirits/

            To boot, the Co-op is run by a bunch of prairie socialists who pay high wages, support local producers, employ people with disabilities, support countless local charities, etc. etc. etc. I was against privatizing the liquor stores at the time (though I wasn’t old enough to drink) but in retrospect I was nuts. Now I want to know why you can’t get a six pack at a gas station here like you can in Montana.

          • You know, this all started with one little throwaway comment. I had no idea I’d stir up such a passionate reaction. Clearly, Canadians – or those posting on here anyway – care more about their beer and how they access it than they do about the political situation in this country.

            I’m done on this subject.

        • Depends how it is privatized. Does the local retailer have the latitude to buy what the public wants or is it limited to a gov-union selection?

          US operates privatized. If enough local customers want it and pay for it, the vendor will supply it. If low volume, large stores will carry rare brands at a slightly higher cost. But with volume, prices go down as it isn’t as price fixed for gov-union profit.

          • You did kind of get an earful. I just wanted to cheer you up: they’ll never take away your favourite beers.

        • Don’t be concerned… BC has both gov’t run and private liquor stores, and the selection of wines and beers from smaller local producers is much better at the private stores than the gov’t ones.

        • Go ahead Keith, go Google “Sherbrooke Liquor Store Edmonton”. While you’re at it, you may also enjoy checking it out on Google Maps.

          We’ll wait.

          • And for every such spot, how many limited-choice outlets are there? Do you have any numbers to show microbrew market share in Alberta is increasing faster than it is in Ontario? Or that there was a spike in market share growth right after the private stores opened?

            As I have said here several times now, (a) I’m not against ending the monopoly; (b) I simply made an observation that no one has disproved with hard stats but which seems to have people foaming at the mouth. There is no way to know exactly how the retailers will respond in Ont until it actually happens, and there is no guarantee the Ont experience would mirror Alta’s.

            I’ve never said it would result in a decrease in market share; I said it might and that I’m not convinced it will help them. Still not. Give me something more than the odd store with great selection; give me hard numbers backing your thesis. Otherwise, it’s anecdotal (as is my assumption).

      • I am not aware of ANY producer of alcohol that has a monopoly. The only monopoly being played is from government and their unions controlling, taxing, price fixing and inflation costs.

        • The Beer Store is owned by four private manufacturers. Literally, no other retail can sell beer in Ontario (small brewers can sell direct from their premises, but that hardly counts). So yes, there is a monopoly.

          • And who makes that happen?

            Your own government pandering to unions. If I was the fifth, government would shut me out unless I had very deap l
            obby pockets. The limitations are government.

    • It’s equally astounding how conservative progressives become when it comes to defending existing public sector monopolies.

    • Ask any microbrewer or independent in the province how they like dealing with the LCBO and the enormous cut they take out of sales if you’re lucky enough that they agree to carry your product. There are very good reasons to break up that monopoly.

    • Alcohol isn’t a monopoly at all. What is a monopoly is the hyper-taxation (gov and unions) you are forced to pay if you want to drink booze in Canada.

      Want affordable booze with good quality and more choices, get goverment and their unions out of the equation. Privatization works.

    • I ain’t seeing any argument for monopoly – and “we have it now!” is not an argument for it, any more than it was an argument for denying women the franchise or keeping slaves.

      Namecalling ain’t a good replacement for an argument, you know.

      (Privatization, why? Okay.

      1) None of the Government’s damned business, any more than clothes and groceries and every other good.

      2) Private entities compete with each other and actually respond to consumer preferences expressed by this wacky thing called “money”, stocking more of popular things, and also enabling the long tail of minor preferences to be satisfied by niche players.

      Neither incentive actually applies to a monopoly, though from political pressure I’m sure they try to not run out of Molson or the like.

      Do you actually not know the economic underpinnings of why markets are literally – from both first principles and observation – always more efficient than command economies? )

  2. I think the Beer Store just might have managed to accelerate the move to de-monopolization (can’t call it privatization, since it’s not owned by the government). The data twisting in that report is embarassing for anyone involved in its drafting. It’s like arguing that milk shouldn’t be sold at corner stores, since it costs more than at chain grocers.

    • “It’s like arguing that milk shouldn’t be sold at corner stores, since it costs more than at chain grocers.”

      This isn’t the winning argument you or I think it might be. Remember, we live in Canada with supply management and we purposely charge people more for basic foodstuffs so we can create a few millionaire farmers.

      • Fair enough. But I was specifically addressing the ludicrous claim that booze costs more in Alberta since privatization. The average price of a good does not reflect the range of prices available to the consumer.

        • That study was embarrassing for sure but it was normal left wing economics. Consumers are not considered here, it is all about protecting The State and its monopoly over the distribution of alcohol.

          I have been thinking proponents of alcohol in corner stores should start arguing that it would help with global warming. I drive by numerous locations that could sell me beer/spirits and so I travel further than necessary. Ont government is killing the environment by making us drive far distances to get alcohol.

          • There is a healthy middle ground for privatization. I live in ALberta and I’m sure our electric costs would be lower if the industry had not been privatized. But the privatization of liguor stores has been good for the consumers, more selection and better prices, especially with those huge new stores.

  3. I have not really been paying attention to Hadak but I am pretty sure he has not promised to get rid of minimum price system Ontario has. Ont gov’t sets minimum price alcohol companies can sell their products for to limit our consumption. Letting stores sell alcohol will help with the convenience but not price if government does not also abolish the pricing scheme. Ont is very conservative prov, the bureaucrats think we are all hooligans who need a close watching or else we get out of control.

    Ont has weird history with alcohol, not sure why. I lived in UK and South Korea, and also did lots of traveling, and alcohol is controlled way more in Ont than anywhere else I have been, tho I never traveled to a proper muslim country that banned alcohol. I would love to be able to buy a bottle of beer at corner store and then drink it on my walk home but, in Ont, that would be far too liberal.

    • Drinking beer while walking on the street – here in Ontario!! Go to jail, Mr. Eastman. Go to jail just for thinking like that. This is Ontario!!

      • Ont….where people buy one beer, and take it out to the truck and drive away. Is it likely the can stays closed?

        • We really should have a law against that.

        • Ont….where people buy a case or two of beer, and take it out to the truck and drive away. Is it likely the can stays closed?

          • Walk, drive….people drink a can of beer. Laws don’t stop them.

        • Well duh, how can they drink it if it stays closed?

      • You response is terrific WBR. It can be facetious or you can sound like my grandmothers.

    • Excellent point, often overlooked. Whatever happens with the Beer Store, I’m sure the brewers and government would prefer we forgot about the minimum price.

      • You are a scholar and gentleman. It is not often that I am told that I have made an excellent point.

    • The only place I’ve been to that’s worse than Ontario is Pennsylvania. There is no beer in corner stores. There are privatized beer stores, but they’re pretty shoddy and (as far as I could tell) would favour one big brewer or another, to the expense of others (so the choice wasn’t fantastic). FURTHER, they can ONLY sell kegs or cases of 24… you can’t buy a 6 pack or 12-pack unless you buy it directly from a bar (at a considerable markup). Meanwhile, they’ve got state owned liquor stores a la LCBO. Many liquor and beer stores are closed on Sundays. I’m always happy when I cross into New York State where I can buy what I want, pretty much when I want, wherever I want.

      So… Ontario is bad, but not quite the worst.

      • That’s interesting, never been to Penn. One time I was in detroit for work, and was sent to beer store to get more supplies. I was already squiffy, and I got into argument with cashier about how cheap it was. I bought two cases of 24 crap american beer and I got change from a $20. I thought cashier made mistake, I told her to check again because it was certainly much more than that.

        Ont govt much worried about our spiritual wellbeing. I find it odd that a prov that is not particularly religious has such issues around alcohol. It is amazing how controlled it is here in Ont.

      • Well, there’s entire counties in the United States that are completely dry.

      • Slight corrections re: Pennsylvania:
        a.) While it is technically true that corner stores in the strict sense (i.e. convenience stores) can’t sell beer, many eateries (mostly pizza places, delis, and the like) have licenses to do so. They sell six and 12-packs, and are about as common as corner stores are.
        b.) There are also some stores now that also sell basically nothing but beer and other malt beverages by the six and 12-packs. Not totally sure whether the law has changed or whether they’ve just found a sneaky way around it, but it seems to be working. The stores that sell kegs and cases are normally known as “beer distributors.”

        Other than that, spot on about how stupid liquor laws are in this state. . .and I’m not even much of a drinker.

  4. ‘I give you Alberta, my friends: a bizarre fairytale land’…..just what I’ve said for years.

    • This is what’s known in the hard sciences as “fishing around for an endpoint that seems to make your case most effectively”.

      You should have read a little further. He was hardly agreeing with your own point, whatever that is.

  5. As a resident of Calgary but born and raised in Ontario I actually prefer Ontario’s Beer Store to Alberta’s ubiquitous selection of Liquor Barns and Liquor Depots and any other number of lamely named ‘liquor’ stores. Though I will admit the days of having to buy beer in one store and hard liquor and wine in another are pleaseantly a quirk of history.
    But most importantly I miss the selection available at The Beer Store. I am never more aware of this fact than when my father visits each year and I spend and afternoon driving around Calgary to a dozen different liquor stores in a desperate, but ultimately fruitless attempt to find a case of his beloved Old Vienna. Privitization just doesn’t accomodate terrible taste in beer! :o)

    • I live in Ontario, in a town of 15,000 permanent residents and one that doubles – or more – in size during the summer. Total number of beer/liquor outlets? Five. That’s RIDICULOUS! If you pine for Ontario’s way of selling beer, wine and spirits, you have either i) drank waaaay too much at some point in your life; or ii) are just crazy.

      • I live in Guelph and there are more shops called 420 or wacky tabacky than there are beer stores.

    • Ontario’s system is already privatized – the Beer Store is privately owned.
      Further, I live in Toronto, and there is no Beer Store anywhere near me. It is so far away I don’t think I’ve been in the last 10 years. And I’m in central Toronto! The beer selection at the LCBO is terrible.
      So how is our system better? Inconvenient locations, poor hours, the Beer Store is notorious for trying to hide craft brewers and promote their own products, disinterested and unknowledgeable staff…
      And why don’t you just call ahead and find out who has Old Vienna?

      • Guess my mild comedic chops are in need of work. Maybe people don’t find OV drinkers funny anymore. And I didn’t realize alcohol acquisition was such a traumatic ordeal for so many people. I’ve just never now or in my youth found myself inconvenienced to the point of frustration or outright hostility in how I buy my booze; the price in bars, notwithstanding.

      • I live in Toronto and I have a Beer Store and an LCBO, side by each, within 200 yards of my house.

        That’s all – nothing to contribute to the discussion, I enjoy gloating about that :)

    • I must be around your father’s age ….. OV was one of the
      many follies of my youth.

      • Mine too. I’m ashamed.

      • Or Extra Old Stock, if we were in a hurry.

        • Cringe….

        • OK, you just gave me a headache, and I have not drunk a thing. Please stop. And don’t you dare mention Club or Export or I’m going to be kneeling before the toilet, with one hell of a grudge against you.

          • How about Brador, then?

          • Never heard of it.

    • My old man also drinks swill. There’s no stopping them once they get to a certain age. But if Alberta’s system has made OV harder to get, then they’ve done that province a great service.

    • I was born and raised in Calgary, only moved to Ontario from Calgary a few years ago and I find the selection there to be far superior. Many Co-op Liquor stores for example (I found), have an excellent and changing selection. Then of course there is Willow Park which is a craft beer heaven (as well as wine and various other liquor). Not only do I miss the hours terribly, but the varied (and better) selection that can be found by visiting a different store. Toss Liquor Connect into the mix and there is, for me, truly no comparison.

  6. Oh God, the Parkland Institute. I remember reading one hand-wringing study they put out more than a decade ago about Alberta liquor privatization. They were trying to unfavourably compare levels of certain social harms tied to alcohol (eg. DUIs) in Alberta post-privatization relative to more-controlled B.C. They couldn’t quantify the mitigating value in letting consumers buy a desired product when they want it, of course, but I was struck by the number of factors they just ignored, for example, that Albertans are the richest population in the country (and hence more likely to consume alcohol under any circumstance) and the youngest province (hence more likely to consume, again, and even more likely to excess).
    I was happy to realize that Parkland had no influence at all in Alberta government but someone at the Beer Store clearly thinks their name lends a bit of unwarranted credibility in Ontario.

    • Of course they wouldn’t have influence on the Alberta gummint.
      They were silly enough to be associated with The Smartest Man
      in Alberta … Kevin Taft (don’t say it out loud).

  7. I have an alopecia problem from scratching my head with
    the puzzlement of the Mr. Market media’s obsession on
    easy booze … and cheap cheese. Unhealthy all around.


  8. In the two decades following retail deregulation [alcohol revenues] grew to $687 million… this increase in government revenues over time is cited by some deregulation proponents as evidence that Alberta has not only maintained but increased its liquor revenues.”
    Correlation does not equal causation. What was the increase in Alberta’s population in those ame two decades? Perhaps that has a lot more to do with alcohol revenues than any privatization scheme. I’m echoing some of the other comments here, the articles about the LCBO and privatization (esp. at Maclean’s) just seem to be a re-hash of duelling ideologies. Thanks for nothing Colby.

    • You’re suggesting that the relationship between increased revenues and increased revenues is… a “correlation”?

    • The Beer Store writing a report endorsing the ongoing superiority of The Beer Store is Kafkaesque. Pharmaceutical companies at least put a university professor in as the middle-man in their “sponsored” research papers. Those of the Leftish variety will not hesitate to denounce a climate study funded by the energy industry, or safety protocols suggested by rail companies. Why is this Beer Store study okay?

    • It’s tricky to fairly assess the Alberta numbers, since they changed the way booze was taxed (from % of price to set amount per volume) at the same time as privatizing.

      As for the “re-hash”… this article is in response to a twisted PR document put out by a monopoly trying to survive. You’d rather nobody takes a critical look?

  9. We should do away with publicly funded health care if alcohol is made easier to access. With lower tax revenues, we can’t afford more sick people.

    • Way cheaper to just cut the boomers off, if it’s only about numbers.

    • [OK, I'll play, "Tom Flanagan".]

      But these alcohol induced sickies will also die earlier thus decreasing government expenditures on OAS, CPP, GIS, subsidized nursing homes.

      So, perhaps it’s not that we can’t afford more sick people, but rather we can’t afford to not make alcohol easier to access.

  10. The reason booze is expensive is not the monopoly, it’s the @#$%! taxes.

    We’d probably get slightly better service with competition, but not that much better.

    I don’t mind paying a teensy bit more for beer because of the monopoly, if it means that people in remote areas have access to more than Coors Lite. Try getting doctors if that’s the closest beer for 500 miles.

    • There’s something worth noting on that, seeing how in Alberta the Stelmach government brought in minimum prices (the private liquor stores still have to buy from the government owned warehouse). When the state gets to set the markup, I’m not sure that you can blame “privatization” as a cause.

  11. Trying to pass off this massively biased Beer Store study as a reason not to privatize liquor sales is disgraceful. In a democracy the governments function is to give the people what they want and what they want in Ontario is privatized, more convenient, longer hours beer sales. What part of that don’t these pompous, Liberal idiots understand?

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