Anthony Matijas discusses the privately owned organization that controls the majority of beer sales in Ontario:
The Beer Store’s employees will not be going on strike because they are not public sector employees. That may seem obvious to some, but according to an independent survey cited by a government report, 60% of people in Ontario believe The Beer Store to be a state-run entity. No doubt they benefit from the confusion, which may placate customers wondering why they pay so much more for beer than districts such as Quebec and New York state, where beer is sold in corner stores. The Beer Store fosters this ambiguity by designing their stores to be about as welcoming as a Service Ontario outlet.
In fact, the retailer is co-owned by three of Canada’s largest brewers, Molson, Labatt’s, and Sleeman, none of which are entirely Canadian companies. Molson merged with Coors of Denver in 2005, Labatt’s is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev of Belgium, and Sleeman is owned by Sapporo of Japan. Aside from the LCBO, which enjoys a far more modest market share and generally does not supply restaurants and bars — and microbreweries, which are allowed to sell retail beer only on premises — The Beer Store maintains a government-protected monopoly.
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Meanwhile, brewers who aren’t part of the beer cartel must pay what they describe as exorbitant listing prices to have their products placed in Beer Store locations and, once they do, their visibility is generally limited to a coaster-sized listing on the wall, often nowhere near eye-level. Anyone who doesn’t live next door to a Beer Store is likely to pass several billboards for multinational swill on the way and, not frequenting an LCBO, one may not be aware of the many local craft beers available. Those who are near-sighted, and have forgotten their corrective eyewear, may just end up walking out of there with a two-four of Coors Light and a sad look in their eyes.
Revoking Beer Store exceptionalism should be a matter all Ontarians could agree upon, regardless of ideology. A state sponsored monopoly defies the free-market principles of conservatives, while special privileges for multinational corporations should not sit well with supporters of either one of the left-of-centre parties. Furthermore, the largely foreign ownership of Canada’s big breweries means that The Beer Store in no way compliments the economic nationalist tendencies of the NDP.