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It’s a time of confusion in the land of the liquor-slicked snow trails.

All around us, there are specials on beer and liquor as we cruise the aisles at the local liquor store. Christmas is coming, and so is company. And the sad truth is that most of us end up wincing once we get to the cash to pay for our selections.

Take it all in, folks. It might be a very different scenario next year, both for your wallet, and where you go to buy your brewski’s!

We have a group, The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, that has decided the time has come to lobby for raising prices on alcoholic beverages.

Their reasoning is; with 26 percent of the Canadian population abusing alcohol, in raising prices at the local liquor and beer outlets, not to mention your friendly neighbourhood pubs, that these poor, addicted souls will suddenly see the light,  and put down the shot glass.

Um…yah! And Santa is going to arrange with the credit card companies to give you a free Christmas this year too!

In the mix of all of this, our own Conservative Government has announced that it will seek to allow corner stores to sell spirits and beer in the near future. This declaration from one Tim Hudak has been a very long time in the making.

Quebec has had this privilege in place for eons now, and it’s proven to be a successful attempt for everyone involved.  Surely, a little competition in Ontario being targeted towards the ruling LCBO outlets would be a good thing? It’d lower prices, and make available a choice that was never available in Ontario before.

Courtesy, Creative Commons

Courtesy, Creative Commons

But then…The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse will surely be up in arms over this. The governing body making this kind of announcement will surely drive up alcoholism across the country, making their already difficult task in educating the public as the dangers of alcoholism all that much more of a burden. And surely, there will be toddlers swiping “Blue Nun” wine into their pram when eyes are elsewhere, street people pouring into your local 7/11 for a fix or 12, what have you.

Now, I don’t mean to besmirch the good works of The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Alcoholism is a serious disease, and knowing that 5 percent of our population is abusing alcohol should never be taken lightly. But, in saying that, we’ve been down this road before.

For those that are unaware, once upon a time, another government decided that too many Canadians were smoking. So, to curb this epidemic, they jacked up the price of a pack of cigarettes to over the ten-dollar mark. But in doing so, they failed to realize at that time that for all their good intentions, they had effectively forced law-abiding Canadians to become black market criminals.

People that worked and paid taxes, citizens that had never even used a curse word even once in their life were suddenly buying much cheaper cigarettes on the sly. The problem became so wide-spread that the government found themselves forced to drastically lower the price of cigarettes per carton/pack to kill off the supply lines. In later years, they prosecuted the tobacco companies, and the coffin nail dealers, and in turn re-inflated the price of cigarettes.

But. And there is a but. Raising the prices didn’t stop the smokers. What did, to a small extent, was curtailing the available places a smoker could secure their fix. A great many people became fed up with standing practically in the middle of the road to get in that puff or two, and eventually quit. This author is among them.

Then again, there are those that became more defiant, and would gleefully take out a second mortgage just to raise their middle finger to the powers that be, all the while cheerfully puffing away.

What The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has also failed to take into account is that very dark period in American history known as “Prohibition”. People literally went blind drinking bad batches of bathtub gin, whilst some shady crime syndicates boated “Canadian Club” straight into Michigan for the parched masses.

Now, we all know it would never be that bad here in the Great White North. They’re not proposing we ban the sale and use of alcohol. However, they are trying to force their “love” down the throats of good Canadians. All this in hopes that people turn to a glass of Coca Cola instead of downing a few Molson and Labatts in their living rooms on Saturday night.

There is also the fact that the price of beer and liquor, not to mention wine, have all skyrocketed over the last few years. Alongside everything else being way more expensive in Canada than it is for our U.S counterparts, those of us that do not abuse alcohol find ourselves potentially forced to pay even more. They do this in hopes that they can bring down the numbers of those that do. The logic is just not there, no matter what way you look at it. Raising prices for a person suffering from alcohol addiction is only going to force them to turn to less “legal” means of securing the elixir they seek.

Which brings me back to Hudak’s proposal. In the past, there were governments that had entertained the idea of opening up limited sales of beer and wine in your local corner stores, but the backlash from various pressure groups have always caused them to bury the proposals. But if Hudak is as brave with his actions as he is with words, this proposal will end up becoming reality, thus making the sale of “refreshments” nice and easy for all involved. Well, in theory, that is.

If the Quebec model stands as the benchmark, the corner stores will only be stocking the cheapest brands of wine, and pricing them as if they were higher end. And beer would cost a pretty penny more than their own liquor control board, the SAQ.

So, without any lobbying whatsoever, The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse would have what they wanted in part. Now, that’s not to say that corner stores wouldn’t be doing good business. Au contraire. A person that’s too tanked to drive, or that ran out early on a case of suds, would pay the extra gladly for the convenience. And there are those that could care less if wine tasted like Kool Aid that would also enjoy being able to pick up a bottle for dinner on a Saturday night, thus avoiding the long lines at the LCBO here in Ontario.

All in all, it sounds pretty good on paper. The challenge would be to see if Tim Hudak has the stomach and the backbone to stand up to the pressure groups and naysayers, and then fight to see his vision become law.

I’d like to add one final thought to these current events. It does not take an addictive personality to make the choice to take a drink. But the second they make this choice, it becomes a challenge, sometimes an overwhelming challenge, to those that suffer from the ills of alcoholism. Making it harder to feed that addiction will not miraculously turn them into tea teetotalers. There are 12 steps involved in that, and no matter how high you try to force up the price of their poison, they are the ones to make that choice for themselves. No amount of good intentions will alter that choice in the slightest. You only need look at a drug or gambling addict to see the truth in my words.

God Bless, and Happy Holidays my friends.

Sources:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/11/27/alcohol-pricing.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1297301–we-ll-allow-beer-liquor-in-corner-stores-tim-hudak-says

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