A recent article in the Toronto Star exposes how the provincial government, in its running of the LCBO, has a relationship of capitulation and cooperation with The Beer Store. This is to divide competition and sales between the two agencies in an agreed upon manner, for the past fourteen years. Most notably, you can only get 24-packs (and their cheaper cost per unit) at the Beer Store, while the LCBO sticks to smaller, ‘convenience’ sizes.
This agreement is perplexing insofar as The Beer Store is not publicly owned – it is privately owned by major foreign brewers with little stake in Ontario, besides corporate interests. Meantime the LCBO is an Ontario asset, in theory the property of the taxpayer. Yet, they are in cahoots to control distribution and profit, as a follow-up Toronto Star article argues.
On one hand, we know that if we limit or control alcohol distribution, we limit alcohol-related harms such as chronic disease, violence, crime and enforcement. Therefore, we support the LCBO and Beer Store as opposed to privatization and wider distribution, because central distribution keeps us all healthier.
On the other hand, this deal is a strange mix of private and public interests – not really shining a good light on either agency – and that is sure to be a big deal in the media for the foreseeable future.