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Ontario Politics Chatter: The Beer Store Monopoly, eyes on Sudbury.

I haven’t talked a lot about Ontario Politics much of late, but for my first post of the New Year, a few things have caught my eye I wished to comment on.

First, the Beer Store and its attempt to bring local craft beer dealers onboard is being viewed by some as a too-little too-late gamble in a desperate attempt to hold off competition to its monopoly. This series of paragraphs in a Toronto Star op-ed from Martin Regg Cohn is significant for me:

As more Ontarians realize that The Beer Store isn’t what they thought it was — not a creaky government-owned monopoly, but a globalized cartel — the big brewers are increasingly desperate to salvage their sweetheart deal in a captive market unlike any other. The sudden damage control is motivated by fears of consumer rebellion and a looming government clampdown… Historically, private competition has been restricted and even the LCBO constrained (under a secret 2000 deal revealed by the Star last month, the LCBO cannot sell discounted beer in higher volumes such as 12-packs or two-fours)…The Beer Store is controlled by Labatt Brewing Company Ltd., a subsidiary of AB InBev of Belgium; Molson Coors Canada, controlled by Molson Coors Brewing Co. (incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Colorado, with corporate offices in Montreal); and Japanese-owned Sleeman.

To be clear, I don’t support abolishing the LCBO; I believe there is still a value for it and being in public hands, but I don’t like foreign multinational beer companies with billions of dollars using a monopoly to quash choice and not promote other beer makers besides their own, so I’ve come around to thinking the Ontario Liberals under Kathleen Wynne should at minimum impose a “franchise fee” as they’re poised to do, but she should consider further more radical reforms as well.

Secondly, the Sudbury by-election is poised to take place Feb 5, where ex-federal NDP’er now Provincial Liberal candidate Glenn Thibeault is running for the OLP, in a highly controversial move where Premier Wynne pushed aside “Andrew Olivier, a quadriplegic who came within 1,000 votes of winning the riding for the Liberals in the provincial election last June”, and who wished to run again for the OLP. He now has decided to run as an independent, and he may have a fair bit of potential Liberal voter support. I dont like agreeing with a righty op-ed like Kelly Mcparland too often, but in their eagerness to get a high profile candidate in Thibeault, the OLP and Wynne may indeed end up being too clever by half.

Will Olivier win? Maybe not.. but enough anger may exist that regardless who the NDP candidate is, the election may go to them via vote split. Time will tell.

1 comment to Ontario Politics Chatter: The Beer Store Monopoly, eyes on Sudbury.

  • Liam Young

    Just a quick note about the LCBO in context of the Beer Store and monopolies. Even though the LCBO is government-owned, it too is a ‘front’ for a handful of multinational companies that are maximizing profits using significant barriers to entry for other suppliers. Despite the massive number of listings, it’s safe to say that 80% of the listings are represented by 10 companies, max. Consumers accept this situation because we’ve become complacent in our demand for consistency, not variety and surprise.
    I support a public monopoly, but one that is more transparent with respect to how they choose products for their shelves.
    With the Beer Store, the solution is easy: allow qualifying craft brewers and small companies to open their own chain of retail locations.

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