Re: End the Beer Store Monopoly, May 1
The Stratford Gazette’s recent editorial on the Beer Store contains several false and misleading statements that are unsupported by fact. Ontarians deserve better – they deserve to know the facts in this important debate. And the facts are clear: in jurisdictions where liquor sales have been deregulated, prices go up, product selection shrinks, government tax revenues are reduced and sales to minors increase.
Last week’s editorial alleged that the Beer Store limits price competition. This claim is patently false. The fact is the Beer Store does not control beer prices. Prices are actually set individually by the 100 different brewers that sell through our stores and aggressive competition has driven prices down in inflation adjusted dollars over the last decade. As a result, Ontarians enjoy the second lowest beer prices in the country despite an average 44% beer tax rate. In contrast, the alcohol retailing systems in Alberta and British Columbia, often cited as models for Ontario, produce beer prices that are frequently $10 or more per case higher. And lower beer prices in U.S. convenience stores are not the result of their retail model, they’re the result of far lower beer taxes. Ontario’s beer taxes are not just two or three times higher than New York’s – they’re a whopping 31 times higher! Without a major cut to Ontario’s beer tax (a highly unlikely event) convenience store beer sales will only drive prices higher not lower.
The editorial also uses disparaging language to describe Beer Store business operations. The fact is, the Beer Store is a completely open system. No brewer is refused access and brewers can place as many products in as many of our 450 stores as they like. Today, the Beer Store carries more than 400 brands, and one in five of those brands are made by small Ontario brewers. Convenience stores could never offer this level of accessibility and selection.
Lastly, the editorial shockingly labels our exceptional responsible sales record a “flimsy argument”. This pays lip service to the importance Ontarians place on the responsible sale of alcohol. Last year, Beer Store employees challenged 3.6 million customers for being underage or intoxicated. The effectiveness of this program has been verified in an independent study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health which found only 1.2 per cent of high school students were able to buy beer from the Beer Store while 15.6 per cent said they purchased cigarettes at convenience stores.
Facts prove that the Beer Store benefits consumers and brewers, but readers needn’t take our word for it. Andrew Oland, president of Moosehead Breweries, wrote the following in a letter to the Sun newspaper: “… it has always been Moosehead’s experience that the Beer Store (TBS) operates a superior retail system that works extremely well for consumers and brewers alike. TBS’s internal systems are world class, helping companies like Moosehead keep costs down so we can pass savings on to consumers. Selling beer in corner stores in Ontario at current taxation levels will lead to higher distribution costs, which must be passed on to consumers.”
Canada’s National Brewers