Wine Rant

- August 20th, 2012

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I almost fell into the trap of using that hoary old cliche “Wine Whine” for this diatribe. But this is no namby-pamby, mewling, pusillanimous, baby-faced, soggy-diapered whine.

This is a rant. A roar. A rage. A kick-in-the-ass, punch-in-the-nose, spit-in-the-wind honkin’ holler. So this is a rant. No whiners allowed.

And this is what it’s all about: The outrageous amount of taxes and profit the Ontario government extorts from the province’s captive consuming citizens who are forced to buy wine and liquor from an extortionate government monopoly.

There’s nothing new in this. But then there’s nothing new in the provincial government sticking its grubby fingers into our pockets and rummaging around to steal whatever’s there every time we buy a bottle of wine. So as long as they keep ripping us off, I think it’s incumbent on any right-thinking Ontarian to raise a regular stink about their revolting behaviour. And do it often so the buggers don’t have a day off from being told they’re a bunch of thieving whores of Babylon. We know it. They know it. So just ditch the sanctimonious claptrap, bub.

It truly is  awful, outrageous behaviour that has only acquired a veneer of social acceptability because it’s been allowed to happen for so long. If you strip away that veil of self-serving, hypocritical longevity, there is absolutely no real, justifiable, logical, defensible reason why the government of Ontario should charge double the real cost of a bottle of wine or hold an exclusive monopoly on the sale of wine and spirits.

Once prostitution is legal, should the government start running bordellos? Of course not! What an unthinkable idea! Should the government be charging a 100% tax on every dollar a hooker charges a john? Don’t be ridiculous!

Well, why should the government be doing exactly those things when it comes to an honest citizen trying to enjoy the simple, wholesome pleasure of having a bottle of good, affordable wine with dinner?

There is no moral imperative why the government should be carrying on this alcohol trade and imposing these usurious robber-baron tax levies. Selling booze doesn’t bear the slightest relationship to any function a real government should be engaged in. And coercing exorbitant amounts of taxation from a defenceless population should be the very definition of BAD government.

Monopoly apologists so often claim they’re using the vast profits and tax revenues from the LCBO to pay for important parts of the provincial organism, from schools to health care. What a load of crap. Anyone with half a brain can see how much money they waste and squander and splurge on self-indulgent fripperies. Why on  earth do we need those outrageously expensive LCBO mausoleums to sell us wine and liquor?

There has never been a monopoly that served the interests of anyone except the persons or organizations that control the monopoly. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes the sucker catches a momentary break when the monopoly slips up, but those loopholes are usually plugged pretty quickly and then it’s back to business as usual — the business being, in this case, ripping off the taxpaying consumer.

Why am I so het up about this particular issue at this particular time?

Because I’m in Europe at the moment — Germany, to be specific; Schleswig-Holstein to be even more specific — and I’m buying wine from multiple sources at reasonable prices. And the contrast to the Ontario wine-buying experience is so stark it just sticks in my craw.

This morning I was in an Aldi store — sort of a Germanic No Frills — and the wine aisle had lovely French Cote du Rhone reds and Graves whites for 3.99 Euros with a few good wines more expensive than that and plenty of adequate plonk for less.

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According to today’s Bank of Canada rate, one Euro is worth $1.22 Canadian (down about 10% from just a couple of months ago) and most Canadian banks are charging about a nickel premium to make that particular currency conversion at the moment.

So for argument’s sake, lets say one Euro is worth a buck and a quarter Canadian today. Which means that bottle of Cote du Rhone or Graves would cost me about $5 Canadian right now. And European prices have the tax already built in, so that $5 cost is exactly that — $5, with no hidden add-ons.

Compare that to the $15 you’d pay for the same bottle of wine at the LCBO. (Of course you can get a lesser-quality $10 Cote du Rhone at the LCBO — but I can get a Cote du Rhone at least as good as the $10 LCBO bottle for less than two Euros ($2.50 Canadian or less in other words) at Aldi here in Germany.

Now I would probably accept a doubling of the European price at the LCBO. But I don’t accept a tripling. That’s gouging. And the only reason the Ontario government can get away with it is because they’ve rigged the game to let themselves do whatever they damn well please. Shame. Shame.

Now I’m just talking discount supermarket wines here at the moment. You can toddle off to lovely, atmospheric 800-year-old wine cellars to sniff and sip fabulous high-end wines at much higher prices. But I don’t usually drink those wines and I certainly never buy them, so they just don’t matter in my universe.

They are there, however, and even at their most precious pricing they’ll be cheaper by a long shot than they would be at the LCBO.

Let’s deal with a couple of other aspects that seem to be raising their heads.

First, you say, “Well, of course European wines are cheaper in Europe.”

As if that explains everything.

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Then how do you explain this South African Pinotage for 2.69 Euros (about $3.35 CAN) or this Californian Cabernet for 1.89 Euros (about $2.38 CAN)? Last time I checked, California was a hell of a lot closer to Ontario than it is to Europe.

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I’m not saying either of those is a very good wine, but both would be drinkable. More importantly, they’re AVAILABLE for someone who CHOOSES to buy them. And they’re available at roughly the price you’d pay for a decent fruit juice or other liquid comestible you might sip after work or with your dinner.

Now you say, “It’s a different culture there — wine’s more part of everyday life so it’s more affordable.”

The only reason that it’s more affordable is that most European governments (Denmark’s an exception) don’t add out-of-this-world taxes to the cost of wine. For many Canadians, wine is as much a part of everyday life as it is for their counterparts in Europe. So why are Canadians/Ontarians paying massively more for the same commodity? I happen to drink more wine in Canada than I do in Europe — doesn’t that mean I should be paying less for my wine in Canada under this goofy drink-more/pay-less equation?

What it all boils down to is that the Ontario government is getting away with it because it can and will do so as long as it can. Especially the McGuinty Liberals, who have a terribly hard time shaking their well-practised tax-and-spend inclination.

I’d like to think the NDP would be more reasonable and rational, but I just don’t see a socialist party choosing to give up any kind of government monopoly.

So maybe it comes down to the free-market, lower-taxes mantra of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

Well, it seems they’re half-way there. The PCs want to privatize the liquor business in Ontario — but they seem quite happy with the amount of rip-off profits — “revenue,” they call it — the government reaps from excessive taxes on wine and other alcohol.

I’m waiting for them to be philosophically consistent and rigorous and declare they’ll also reduce the tax load on wine if they form the next government.

I’d drink to that. I might even vote for them.

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4 comments

  1. Marc says:

    Damn good article with damn good points.

  2. Joanne McMurchy says:

    Awesome article. How true is this? We need to pull together. Keep this in the media as much as possible. People are really starting to rally.

  3. Pete says:

    Agree on all points! Its time for a tax revolt…problem is no one will step up to the plate…Why are we taxed on books for heavens sake!! We are trying to make more people literate in this country….Shame on the governments of Canada!! Your wine story is just another sad tale……

  4. andrew says:

    Thank You Captain obvious. But please do explain how the hell Ontario is one of the largest consumers of alcoholic beverages in the world. I know! Because the people of Ontario are mindless, brainwashed suckers. Including me. Ever go to an Lcbo and see people just buying cases and cases of wine. People have no problem spending $400 + on their booze fix. I blame it on those dumb ass’s. They allow the LCBO to continue jacking up the prices. Like why do people need to buy a Remy XO, Hennesy XO, etc.. Are the people of Ontario obsessed with perception? You want to show off all your fancy bottles when company comes over. People are so ignorant and stupid that they’ll go buy 4 6 packs of Corona at the LCBO instead of going to the Beer store and getting the same thing for much less. Jeez it’s not like the workers at the LCBO have mini skirts on.

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