Beer drinkers, Premier Doug Ford is not your new best buddy. His move to decrease the price of a hypothetical bottle of beer by 25 cents is a gimmick that just helps underline what a goofy mess beer retailing is in Ontario.
In the civilized world, beer is something one can buy in privately owned corner stores, grocery stores and liquor stores. Manufacturers suggest prices, but retailers can charge what they like. It’s almost as if beer were just another beverage.
In Ontario, beer retailing is 100 per cent controlled by government. Our political beer bosses make all the rules, control pricing and packaging, run a retail outfit, rake in $589 million a year in beer and alcohol taxes, and even publish a glossy booze magazine. The Beer Store and select grocery stores are also allowed to sell beer, but only because they have kissed the ring of the premier of the day.
It’s a setup that would make a crime boss envious, and it’s all accomplished without anyone in government risking a penny of their own money or doing any actual work.
So now Doug Ford, our latest emperor of beer, has thrown out a challenge to breweries. He would like them to sell their product for a loss so he can tell Ontarians he lowered the price of beer. Oh, and he wants them to do it by Labour Day, and the beer has to be in bottles, not the cans Ontario craft brewers and consumers favour.