Christina Blizzard exposes the complexity of the alcohol issues in this province and in our culture in her recent article in the Toronto Sun. Certainly she relays how the government has a monopoly on liquor sales in this province; the Ontario government controls the LCBO and in turn garners significant tax revenue.
This does ignore however, the mammoth suds sales from the foreign-owned Brewers Retail – more commonly known as The Beer Store – a jointly-owned foreign monopoly of its own.
Taxes are paid on beer too, so back to the point: the Sun article speaks to an Ontario Medical Association recommendation that Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government should divert some LCBO funds/ alcohol taxes to help ‘problem drinkers’ – not a terrible idea. However, what’s important to understand is that ‘problem drinking’ is a wider issue than Ms. Blizzard’s article details. Alcohol is a monster difficult to fully comprehend because its swath is so broad, its tentacles so long.
Alcohol is a pervasive beast that touches multiple layers of our society. Most visibly, booze correlates with crime, violence, injury and death. Costs to the government (read: society) include enforcement, incarceration, health care costs, and lost productivity. Less conspicuously, alcohol can hurt families and individuals with impacts to housing, income, crises, and abuse.
Less commonly understood or discussed in the media, alcohol raises the risk for cancer and other diseases, and can complicate treatment and recovery. Statistically, this also has a massive cost to taxpayers – meaning us – society. Not everyone is going to drink a 26’er of vodka and smash heads, abuse children, or lose their job. But many of us might have three glasses of wine more often than we truly should.
The true total cost of alcohol in Canada – health, crime, enforcement, violence, injury, disease, everything – vastly exceeds that of alcohol tax revenue, counting all sources. Diverting taxes to help one layer of the issue ignores the rest.