Jack Brezina: Tories chase beer demographic
|By Jack Brezina - Contributing Writer | June 13, 2019|
To say the least, it is interesting to watch the Ford administration stumble forward with an agenda that only the inner circle of the government seems to be aware of.
Announcements are made only to be retracted, postponed or repackaged. Often the public policy actions seem to come out of the blue. Certainly, Ford’s election campaign contained few details other than sweeping pronouncements about getting spending under control and reducing the deficit …. both goals that were offered with little or no detail as to how they would be accomplished.
The reason for back-tracking on some grand announcements is often said to be the result of ‘listening to the people’, an excuse that is easy to invoke in selective cases but amounts to little more than government policy by opinion polling. It also speaks volumes about the lack of development of a coherent strategy.
One agenda that appears to be progressing well with Ford and his minions is the alcohol and beer file. Just two weeks ago, in an orchestrated tweet-storm, members of the Ford government went on social media bemoaning the lack of access to beer and wine in the province.
Unlike the extremely limited number of cannabis retail outlets, in Ontario, we are pretty well served by vendors of beer and wine. According to a government report, there are 447 beer stores in the province, 660 LCBO outlets that sell liquor, beer and wine, 200 licensed extensions of the LCBO/Beer store franchises … such as the stores in Carnarvon, West Guilford and Eagle Lake and 350 grocery stores that started selling beer and wine in the last couple of years.
On top of that, craft breweries, larger beer makers and wineries can have their own retail outlets where the beverage is manufactured.
The plan is to rip up the 10-year contract with the operators of the Beer Store, which could prove to be costly, expand the market to corner stores interested in selling beer and wine, add more grocery and big box stores to the list and increase the number of what are to be called LCBO convenience outlets.
Perhaps there is an opportunity here as well for the Girl Guides and Scouts to get in on the action, dropping the cookies and apples and offering door to door booze sales.
Having beer and wine for sale everywhere has a whiff of common man appeal, but one has to worry about the premier’s seeming fixation with alcohol. From his lowering of the floor price of a can of beer to a buck, to regulations allowing alcohol at so-called tailgate parties, to earlier serving hours (will you be having a beer with those bacon and eggs?) and now a proposal to make it available in corner stores, one might deduce a pattern here that should be concerning.
Now, don’t get me wrong: Like many people I enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine from time to time but I don’t recall any crisis moment in my life when I felt that these beverages were beyond my reach.
Doug Ford seems to feel that having beer and wine readily available is somehow meeting a dire need of the common Ontarian. I for one, don’t ever recall anyone complaining about the availability (except all those PC MPPs in their ridiculous tweets) and demanding that if the government doesn’t do something about it, the world, as we know it, would come to an end.
There are many more important problems the premier and his people should be setting their minds to solving. The availability of beer and wine is certainly not one of them.
Jack Brezina is a contributing writer for The Highlander.