Following the recent petition by convenience store owners seeking to sell beer and wine, Dalton McGuinty responded by saying the current system works well to guard the public good. There are several points that run counter to this argument which show that his outdated notions of “protecting” the poor citizens from themselves does not guard the public good and in fact may be causing harm.
Firstly lets examine the nature of the petition that was recently brought before the Legislature. The petition was started by Joanne McMurchy, who runs the General Store in the hamlet of Vanessa, south of Brantford, where some of the 80 local residents complained they have to drive 20 minutes to a liquor store. That means that instead of walking to a corner store to pick up some more beer or wine, not only do they have to make unnecessary trip in a car (which isn’t terribly green), there is the chance that some of them will do it after already having had a few drinks. People in Ontario are going to drink alcohol, the failure of Prohibition more than 80 years ago should have taught us that at the very least.
How many times have you had a dinner party or a few friends over and realized that after having had just a few drinks that you are completely out of wine or beer? You aren’t drunk and you probably feel fine, but you probably shouldn’t be driving. But you decide you are fine and need to jump in your car to go get more beer. Not withstanding the 20 minute drive the citizens of Vanessa must endure, many people do not have a Beer Store or an LCBO within walking distance of their homes, so driving is they only option for many. So this seemingly harmless drive may end very badly and potentially get someone killed.
Doesn’t the fact that many people need to drive to buy alcohol increase the chances of some of them driving impaired? Shouldn’t organizations such as M.A.D.D. be in favour of beer and wine in corner stores? They are against Drunk Driving, not drunk walking.
Opponents also argue that convenience stores wouldn’t be able to restrict sale of beer and wine to minors or those that are already intoxicated. That’s nonsense. Corner stores already sell age-restricted products, including tobacco and lottery tickets. We don’t have to go to the Tabacco Store or the TCBO to buy cigarettes do we? If Dalton McGuinty were really concerned about guarding the public good, cigarette sales would have similar restrictions.
But convenience store owners are following the rules right now with these restricted products, they’ll card anyone who looks under 25. If they were to sell beer and wine they would all likely be required to have each employee have Smart Serve certification. They would be subject to the same rules and regulations that bars and restaurants must adhere to. Last time I checked there were thousands of those such establishments in this province. Making alcohol available in more places doesn’t promote over consumption, it just makes it more convenient for the people who will consume it anyway. Having it within walking distance of most people, keeps people out of their cars, cuts down on traffic congestion, the pollution generated by them and the possibility of driving while impaired. 80% of Ontarians drink alcohol in the home, which means the vast majority of us buy it at the LCBO or the Beer Store.
If Dalton McGuinty is concerned about guarding the public good, why is the government opening more LCBO locations? It has nothing to do with temperance, clearly. When was the last time you went into the LCBO and brought a shopping card full of booze to the cash and were turned away for buying too much? The only thing they ask you is if you have an Air Miles card and if you need help carrying out to your car. If you aren’t driving to the LCBO, you aren’t buying as much all at once because it’s too much to carry home from the corner store.
The LCBO is a wasteful organization that makes the government an enormous amount of money, but many have argued that if it were privatized the government would probably make more money in the form of tax revenue and regulation fees. But I’m not ready to advocate for the LCBO to be dismantled just yet, that is a much more difficult issue to tackle. Let’s take this one step at a time. Wine and beer in grocery and corner stores should be first on the list.
The benefits of having beer and wine more readily available far outweigh any of the potential risks to society. Smaller local producers would benefit and more money would be pumped back into the Ontario economy. Society can handle beer and wine in grocery and corner stores, anarchy and drunken riots will not ensue and the public good will still be guarded by responsible business owners.