As a capitalist, I find it silly that the Government of Ontario runs corner liquor stores and claims that it is in the business of selling wine and spirits to serve the “public interest of Ontarians.”
An expert panel appointed by the government, recommended in a recent report that the LCBO be privatized. John Lacey, chair of the panel said: “Following a six month review, our Panel has come to the unanimous conclusion that the Ontario government should withdraw from ownership and operation of wholesale and retail beverage alcohol business, and instead create a regulated but competitive marketplace.”
You would think that the Panel has made very sensible suggestions, but, Greg Sorbara, the honourable finance minister, immediately rejected the main recommendation to sell the LCBO.
My question to the minister is: How exactly does ownership of the LCBO serve the public interest? Alcohol taxes would still flow into government coffers. Additional license fees could be generated from retail stores that want to sell alcohol. These businesses would have to pay taxes on their profits. Increased competition would lead to greater choice of products and decrease retail prices. Profits from the sale of the LCBO could be used to pay down provincial debt.
In the end, the biggest reason for selling the LCBO is philosophical: Why doesn’t the government also sell toothpaste and cigarettes in the public interest? And why stop there? They can then expand their merchandise to fresh produce and milk.