COLUMN: Agar – When government doesn’t trust the people

- August 1st, 2012

No confidence in the people

by Jerry Agar

The Ontario government’s double standard and disdain for ordinary people and businesses were on ugly display recently.

Sixty per cent of Ontarians, according to Angus Reid polling, want beer and wine available in convenience stores. But the petition presented at Queen’s Park last week was shot down before it landed on the table. The public wants it? Who cares? We are the government, we do what we want, not what you want.

There is no good reason for the government to be in any business, much less monopolize a business, including alcohol sales.

Supporters of the monopoly say only the government can keep alcohol out of the hands of minors. That has been proven wrong by research and by the experiment conducted by Sun News host David Menzies, sending a 14-year-old boy to successfully buy alcohol at three LCBO locations while dressed in a full, face covering burka. The lad was not asked for ID and was not required to show his face.

This reveals the double standard. No one at the LCBO will suffer the kind of penalty government would bring down on a private establishment for such stunning and dangerous incompetence. Typically the penalty is temporary removal of a liquor licence and the loss of business and wages that brings.

It is proper to keep booze out of the hands of minors and government can do a good job of enforcing that standard on private operators. Business can do business and government can regulate and tax. That is the model we should be using.

Supporters of the monopoly point to the LCBO’s average $1.3-billion annual profit, claiming it goes to education and health care. Lately it has gone to eHealth, cancelled power plants and other boondoggles under Premier Dalton McGuinty’s watch.

But if government operating for profit makes sense why not have the government take over all non-essentials such as the fast food industry, soft drink companies and sporting goods stores?

Then they can come for the movie theatres, amusement parks (because they ran Ontario Place so well), and, given their disdain for convenience stores, those as well.

Anyone can turn a profit if they kill the competition, raise prices immensely and apply no rules to themselves. That’s how criminals do it.

Supporters of the monopoly claim the LCBO promotes responsible drinking. Only a drunk should fall for that one.

If the LCBO actually wanted to curb the use of the product, they wouldn’t advertise and market as aggressively and as well as they do. They wouldn’t be open at night and on the weekend.

I am astounded by the number of people who contact my radio show imagining that if we went private all the liquor stores would be seedy little operations, “like they have in the States.”

Canadian business people aren’t stupid and they are not incompetent. Some private stores would be seedy little places with low prices and some of them, as is actually sometimes the case in the USA, would put any LCBO to shame for size, product choice, ambience, service and product expertise. All of them could certainly charge less than the astoundingly over priced LCBO.

A government claiming itself the only responsible entity, while ignoring public will, is a government that does not believe in the people it falsely claims to serve.

— Agar is the 9 a.m. to noon host on Newstalk 1010

Categories: Contributor Columns

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