By Chad Ingram
During the weekend, members of the Ford government, either on a coincidental, collective whim, or at the direction of the premier, posted to social media pictures of themselves in convenience stores in their respective ridings, promoting the government's intention to allow beer and wine sales in corner stores.
There are many things Ontarians need. Increased access to alcohol is not one of them.
In the case of HKLB MPP Laurie Scott's beer-in-convenience-stores social media photo, it was taken at the Jug City in Haliburton Village, which many readers will be aware is located about 150 metres from the Haliburton LCBO. Sorry, according to Google it's actually 160 metres.
Haliburton Village has an LCBO and a Beer Store. Minden has an LCBO and a Beer Store. There are free-standing LCBOs in Wilberforce, Gooderham and Dorset, and LCBO outlets located in stores in Carnarvon, West Guilford, Eagle Lake, and Cardiff. It's possible I'm missing some locations from this list, because there are so many places to buy booze in Haliburton County.
The county is also blessed with two, delicious craft breweries in the form of Boshkung Brewing Co. and Haliburton Highlands Brewing, Boshkung now offering a second local retail location. Craft breweries have the flexibility to be open later and on days when the provincially-controlled retailers are closed. It varies by time of year, but, essentially, I can buy beer in Haliburton County nine to 12 hours a day on virtually every day of the year. That seems sufficient, no?
The Wynne government already greatly expanded access to booze, allowing the sale of beer and wine in some 450 grocery stores throughout the province. As part of a 2015 agreement between the province and the Beer Store, which is mostly owned by the country's largest brewers, the number of grocery stores at which beer and wine could be sold was supposed to stay at that level for a decade. However, as Ford seeks to fulfil an election promise to put beer and wine in corner stores, he's looking to pull the province out of that agreement, meaning it could eventually find itself in court with companies such as Molson and Labatt.
Ford seems to be making increased access to booze a priority, something I'm pretty confident most Ontarians were not asking for. Along with lowering the minimum cost for a bottle of beer – the “buck-a-beer” thing – the PCs have also introduced legislation to let restaurants start serving alcohol at 9 a.m. and to legalize tailgating at sports stadiums. All this amid coming cuts to health care, mental health and addiction services, and public health agencies.
Haliburton County of course is, per capita, one of the poorest municipalities in province, and has statistically high levels of substance abuse. A 2011 report compiled as part of the health ministry's Healthy Communities Partnership Project makes this recommendation for the community: “Develop education programs and awareness on the risks of tobacco use, substance and alcohol misuse (targeted to youth and families), and mental health issues in general; as appropriate, integrate education programs in other school/community activities.”
Anyway . . . where was I going with this? I can't remember. Somebody pass me a beer.