Wednesday, 16 December 2015


A Double-double Hit

Alcohol, like many goods and commodities people sell to one another can be harmful to the user, or those in their orbit. A list could be infinite: cigarettes, firearms, Lawn Darts, power tools, medium-fat smoked meat sandwiches, ABBA records, pot… The sale of alcohol in Canada is still heavily regulated, a hangover from 19th century temperance movements and Prohibition. Because of the nature of our federation of provinces, pretty much a petty turf war for jurisdiction, except for the big, expensive stuff Ottawa should fund, rules and regulations are inconsistent from coast, to coast, to coast as prim, well-meaning, albeit intolerant hands must always be tied and then wrung in red tape horror.

Here in Alberta the government privatized retail alcohol sales while maintaining control of distribution and wholesale pricing. Essentially, competing retailers cannot afford to compete with each other, especially after consumer taxes are added at the till. I don’t know what the hell’s going on in British Columbia (and nobody does), except that drinking there is really expensive. Ontario, old Protestant, Loyalist Ontario, mystifies me. There is the Liquor Control Board of Ontario competing against a brewery cartel retail chain of shops, The Beer Store. Yesterday, the sitting government of Ontario announced that beer will now be available in grocery stores, but only in six-packs and that that frothy booze cannot be scanned at the same cash register as the rest of the cart. I miss the sophisticated, low-key convenience of living in Montreal. I could go into any corner shop or grocery store and buy a box of beer or a bottle of wine. Still, the good stuff, a peaty, single malt or an Irish, remained government issue, a special trip to a dedicated store.

A story: A friend of mine, a designer originally from the Maritimes, moved back east maybe ten years ago. We managed to hook up in Charlottetown, PEI in 2009. He told me about the previous winter. A storm was blowing in off the Atlantic, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence side of the island wasn’t looking too good either. The CBC and the RCMP combined to warn all residents not to travel, not to go to work, not to go outside. ‘That was fine until the next announcement,’ he continued, ‘the liquor stores (state-run) were closing early, just chaos everywhere after that.’

Granted, crown corporations are handed difficult and seemingly doomed mandates. Yet, it’s difficult to mess up a monopoly, really hard, especially when you’re controlling and re-selling an addictive product. In the sunny ways of post- Stephen Harper Canada, talk has turned to the impending legalization of pot.  Every expert and pundit has weighed in on how to get a regulated dime bag to a customer. The consensus seems to be the utilization of ineffectual provincial liquor boards and their existing distribution networks.

Me? Fuck it; sell the weed through Tim Hortons. The chain blankets the country anyway. Its hours are convenient. There are worse places for high scarfing, and the sandwiches are okay.

No comments:

Post a Comment