Private operators have no incentive to enforce the province's legal drinking age, union says
Toronto (7 September 2006) - The union representing Ontario liquor workers says it's time for the Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty to put strict curbs on the so-called "agency stores" operated by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).
Agency stores are private businesses licensed to sell alcohol in small communities.
"Agency store owners have a direct stake in maximizing alcohol sales," says Leah Casselman, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
"The profit motive will always be in direct conflict with the need to halt sales to minors. That's why I call agency stores 'the McGuinty teen drinking program,'" she said.
From 1995 to 2005, the number of agency stores in Ontario more than doubled from 82 to 194. In May 2006, the province announced plans for 20 more of the private outlets.
"LCBO staff ask 4,700 customers a day to prove that they are of legal drinking age and we refuse to serve more than 300 of them," Casselman said. "No private operator will ever achieve that standard of social responsibility when there's money on the counter."
In a presentation to the Ontario legislature's standing committee on government agencies, Casselman called for strict limits, including these measures:
- an immediate freeze on new agency stores pending a full review of the program;
- stricter oversight of agency stores by the LCBO;
- restrictions on hours of operation;
- elimination of agency stores in cases where the sales volume could support an LCBO kiosk or stand-alone LCBO store; and
- municipal approval of any new agency store.
"The McGuinty government has vowed not to privatize the LCBO, but agency stores are privatization by stealth," Casselman said. "These stores come with a cost that Ontarians who love their kids are not prepared to pay." NUPGE