The union representing more than 7,000 LCBO workers has
endorsed the Crown agency’s decision to open ‘Express’ stores in several
large grocery stores and to inaugurate boutique outlets for the sale of
Ontario quality wines.
“This is a step in the right direction for the future of
spirits, wine and beer sales in Ontario,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas,
president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union which represents
LCBO workers at retail outlets, distribution centres and at head office.
“Consumers have said for years they want the LCBO to remain in public
hands, but they also want to see greater convenience and the same high
level of social responsibility that the LCBO provides. This approach is
balanced and that is what people like to see.”
Thomas said the government’s announcement Dec. 31,
giving the LCBO the green light to open up sales in grocery stores and
specialty wine outlets, effectively derails Progressive Conservative
Leader Tim Hudak’s reckless pledge to put beer and wine in corner stores
and to begin the privatization of the LCBO itself.
“Tim Hudak is on the wrong side of public opinion when
it comes to the future of the LCBO,” said Thomas. “The public wants to
see it remain a valued public asset that contribute attractive annual
dividends to help pay for education, health care and infrastructure.”
Denise Davis, chair of OPSEU’s liquor board employees
division, said the LCBO should go one step further and begin
repatriating privately-owned and operated “agency” stores once their
current contracts expire. Some of these high-revenue outlets are located
in major grocery stores already and could easily be converted into
regular LCBO retail outlets.
She noted that LCBO Chair Philip Olsson told public
hearings in Trenton, Ont., last June that he was prepared to repatriate
some agency stores, few of which carry quality Ontario wines or
Ontario-produced craft beers.
“With the government’s announcement this week it’s time
Mr. Olsson acted on his promise to convert some agency stores into
regular LCBO outlets,” said Davis. “As it stands, many of these stores
together take in millions in annual private commission fees – monies
that more properly should be going to the provincial treasury but which
do little for Ontario’s wine industry or craft brewers.”