When I lived in California or Hawaii or Michigan, I could buy wine, beer, and liquor in the grocery store, off the shelf. It is convenient and inexpensive. Now, Ontario [I mean the province in Canada, not the city in California] is taking very small baby steps in that direction.
The Ontario government is pushing ahead with a plan to put liquor kiosks in grocery stores, a bid to shake up the way alcohol is sold in the province and head off the champions of privatization ahead of a possible spring election.
It won't be much of a "shake up", believe me. Many large grocers already have kiosks that sell Canadian wine. Having additional kiosks to sell liquor is a small step. But this is nowhere near the much freer markets in other jurisdictions.
- The kiosks would be required to use only LCBO [Liquor Control Board of Ontario] employees. It is their union which has led the fight against privatization of liquor sales in Ontario, and this is a back-handed sell-out to the union by the provincial liberal party. This connection between the gubmnt and the LCBO union is likely one of the reasons these kiosks have been approved but that we will nothave beer and wine sales at convenience stores in Ontario.
- The prices would still be set by the LCBO. The prices for liquor here in Ontario are high, but not as high as they are in Saskatchewan, where gubmnt control of liquor sales is even more serious.
- The kiosk sales would have to be separate from the grocery sales (and quite likely separate from the wine kiosks, whose employees do not receive the pay and benefits paid to LCBO employees). A shopper would not be able to put a bottle of wine, some scotch, and a six-pack in the shopping cart along with produce, meat, frozen foods, etc. and pay for them all at once at the checkout.
- The gubmnt would control how many kiosks could be created and in which stores. This plan should create considerable additional opportunity to extort bribes attract campaign contributions from grocery retailers.
The only benefit I see from the change (and it is not really a small one despite my scorn for the plan) is that people who are happy to buy the types and brands of liquor sold at the kiosks will be saved an extra trip to an LCBO outlet. I imagine, however, that the kiosks will be expected to favour Ontario and Canadian products primarily, if not exclusively, much as the wine kiosks already do.
And those of us like Ms Eclectic and me, who like single-malt scotches, will almost surely be out of luck.