The Beer Store Takes Pot Shots at Ontario

Jonathan McLeod

April 17, 2014 | No Comments

Is it really in Ontario’s best interest to hand a monopoly (and the vast fortune associated with it) over to a consortium of foreign businesses so that they can lie to us and treat us like idiots? I’m guessing most residents of the province would say no, but, of course, they would be wrong.

Ontario has granted a monopoly (and all the fortune associated with it) to a consortium of foreign-based mega-corporations. The result is The Beer Store–the only legal retailer of beer in the province (other than a little carve-out for the LCBO). The Beer Store extracts tremendous rents from this government-enforced privilege, and it is us, the consumers, who are forced to continuously stuff dollar bills into the pockets of these Rich Uncle Penny Bags.

When corporations are backed into a corner, their monopoly status threatened, what might you expect them to do? You’re answer should be “to lie”, and if it was, you can’t help but be pleased with the Twitter account @ONBeerFacts. An perfect exercise in Poe’s Law and display of rent-seeking if there ever was.

The masterminds behind The Beer Store created this account to present the “facts”, but as National Post reports, it didn’t really go as planned:

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association wants the ability to sell booze at corner stores and gas stations. But the Beer Store’s campaign, called Ontario Beer Facts, has been met an online army of critics saying the foreign-owned Beer Store is just trying to protect its Ontario quasi-monopoly.

But the latest ad, which has been called “fear mongering” and “propaganda” by critics, unleashed a new level of mockery on social media against the Beer Store’s campaign.

Newton, however, referred to the backlash as “public dialogue.”

Yes, ridicule and derision (in response to contempt and dishonesty) is “public dialogue”. And these are the people who have decided to anoint themselves as the arbiters of facts.

Take this little back-and-forth:

There’s absolutely no way to deny the fact that convenience stores will be open tomorrow, but in its attempt to counter this rather indisputable fact, @ONBeerFacts plays fast and loose with definitions and lumps convenience stores in with agency stores (agency stores are retailers who have a special license to sell booze because the LCBO can’t be bothered to put a store in their locale).

You’d think The Beer Store would want to refrain from drawing attention to agency stores, since agency stores are the loophole the LCBO created to get around the problem of the unwillingness of a state-sponsored monopolist to actually put sufficient stores in the province to meet the desires of the citizen consumers.

Having waited in a long line at The Beer Store this evening because there is no other location in or near my densely-packed, central urban neighbourhood, and if I wanted to enjoy a taste this evening while blogging, I was stuck at the mercy of The Beer Store.

Of course, the massive inconvenience and general contempt that this sort of monopolist shows for customers won’t ever appear as a “Beer Fact”.

No, instead The Beer Store will just re-invent Reeder Madness:

In the end, this is actually a really nice move by The Beer Store. Their candidate assessment of the people around Ontario (liars, degenerates and, what, demonic teenagers?) demonstrates the sheer vacuity of their position. There is so little ground on which the monopolists can stand that the Premiere has even begun the tiniest (incredibly insufficient and, in the end, even more insulting) step in opening up our liquor sales–allowing a handful of grocery stores in the province to begin selling booze.

Tory leader Tim Hudak claims to be all for privatizing the LCBO. And if The Beer Store continues to push its luck, this could possibly become an issue that puts a bit of wind in the PC’s sails.

Quebec Separatism: Be Careful What You Wish For…

Jared Milne

March 31, 2014 | No Comments

I recently published a new article at Vive Le Canada about the potential costs of Quebec separation.

Oh, and I’m not talking about the consequences for Quebec itself-I’m talking about the consequences for all of Canada.

Recently it’s become trendy in some circles to say that Canada should kick Quebec out of the country. The people who advocate this apparently haven’t considered the consequences for all of Canada as a whole, and how we would all lose if Quebec were to leave Canada.

Like the title says, they should be careful what they wish for.

I Have No Opinion On Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s Resignation

Jonathan McLeod

March 18, 2014 | 1 Comment

I have no opinion on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s resignation.

Where have all the grown ups gone?

Jonathan McLeod

March 18, 2014 | 4 Comments

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives seem a bit lost. At a time when they should be capitalizing on the stumbles and scandals of the current Liberal government, the Tories just can’t seem to do much right. They have flip-flopped on right-to-work policy (did many people really even care about the issue?); their white paper on traffic and infrastructure, Building Great Cities, is a mess; and on Thursday, three of their candidates showed up in Ottawa to completely bungle a photo-op*

Meanwhile, the Liberals introduced sensible and necessary changes to the Highway Traffic Act, yesterday. While the Tories are flailing, the Liberals are actually taking time to govern.

There was a time in my youth and young adulthood that conservatives viewed themselves as the grownups in politics. For a while, they had a point. A lot of conservative policy were focused on balancing difficult choices, recognizing externalities and taking into account unintended consequences. But no more. We’ve seen the way politicking has infected U.S. conservatism, and this virus seems to have crossed the border.

The Liberal government deserves to lose the next election. Of course, they deserved to lose the last election, but the Tories were just too inept to capitalize. We need them to grow up, start thinking seriously about issues and demonstrate that they are prepared to run this province.

*How badly did they screw up? They called Highway 174 “Highway 147″, talked about the wrong bridge that comes into the city and they couldn’t find a quiet place to hold their press conference because of the drilling of the LRT–and the press conference was focused on the lack of transit infrastructure!

When Should The West Intervene?

Jared Milne

March 10, 2014 | No Comments

I recently published an article in my local newspaper discussing the civil war in Syria, comparing it to other crises and asking when Western countries like Canada and the United States can and should intervene. Sometimes intervening can lead to disastrous consequences, but sometimes not intervening can be just as bad.

Questions and comments are encouraged and welcome.

Good for you, Tim Hudak

Jonathan McLeod

February 26, 2014 | 1 Comment

Part of me hates all politicians, the liars, scoundrels and cynical bastards, they are. Still, credit where it’s due, Tim Hudak has begun to say the right things (as opposed to the xenophobia and lies of the last election).

Or, at least, he’s said one right thing:

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says the Ontario government should not give Chrysler hundreds of millions of dollars in what he calls “ransom money.”

Hudak says Chrysler still owes the province $800 million from the government bailout it received during the recession in 2009.

I don’t know if this is politically wise, but it makes a ton of fiscal and economic sense, and it seems pretty ballsy, considering how much we tend to fetishize the automotive industry.

There’s no actual reason that we must have an auto industry in Ontario. It seems nice, but if it’s just here to extract rents from the government, then it’s really doing us no favours. Money and resources could be spent elsewhere, allowing us–in the end–to buy cheaper cars (or, maybe, just maybe, fewer cars).

If Chrysler can’t survive, even after we’ve already given them a ton of cash, then they can’t survive, and there’s no amount of political wish-making that will lead to them being economically viable.

Premiere Wynne don’t care:

Premier Kathleen Wynne says her Liberal government invested in auto companies in the past and will continue to do so, and calls Hudak “irresponsible” for saying he wouldn’t partner with the auto sector to keep jobs in Ontario.

She says his approach would put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk in the province.

Not giving a multinational corporation hundreds of millions of our dollars won’t put jobs at risk. An unviable corporation puts jobs at risk. Using the government to prop up the corporation–essentially locking people into those jobs–is what threatens them.

It would be far wiser to let Chrysler do whatever they’re going to do, provide a sufficient safety that will help with the transition, and just let us get on with our lives. We’ll still be better off in the long run.

So, it’s looking far more likely that I’ll vote for Hudak… well, maybe not, but he’s certainly putting a lot of distance between himself and Wynne in the who’s-not-so-totally-crappy.

For more on this general issue, read Andrew Coyne.

Ukraine and the Olympics

Jonathan McLeod

February 20, 2014 | No Comments

You’ve probably noticed that there has been very little discussion of the fighting in Ukraine at this blog. There are a few reasons for this; we tend to focus on national affairs and, really, what unique insight could we give to the situation. The current government—backed by and currying favour with Russia—is killing its people. The protesters are on the side of the angels here.

An unfortunate (though rather insignificant) aspect of this story is the IOC’s refusal to allow Ukraine athletes to wear black arm bands to commemorate their friends and neighbours murdered by their government. Putin’s games are no place to embarrass Putin, I guess.

The very fact that Ukrainian athletes would ask to do this is a sign of courage. I can’t imagine the Ukrainian government (which will hopefully fall soon) would be too receptive of the gesture. They’re willing to murder protesters; they’d probably be willing to murder athletes, too.

So how about this: let’s have the Canadian men’s hockey team—and, hopefully, the U.S. team—don these arm bands for the rest of the Olympics. There’s no Olympic athlete more secure than a professional North American hockey player, so the risk is negligible. Further, will the IOC actually want to make a(nother) political statement in support of state-imposed murder by disqualifying these teams? And even if they did disqualify them, isn’t that a badge of honour far more valuable than a gold medal?

The Olympics have been a two-week long hand job for Vladimir Putin; it’s time Team Canada showed some guts.

The Charter Of Values And Criticism Of Quebec

Jared Milne

February 10, 2014 | No Comments

My Quebecois friend Michel Bolduc was kind enough to host an article I recently wrote on how the attitudes behind the Quebec Charter of Values are far from being limited to Quebec Francophones. They also exist among English-speakers in Canada and in other countries, too.

The article can be found here.

Questions and comments are welcome, as always.

Tax Cuts Come With A Price

Jared Milne

February 4, 2014 | No Comments

I recently published a new article in my local newspaper, discussing how cuts to taxes and government services are often closely related, and the problems associated with promising to cut the first while saying that the second can be kept without eliminating anything.

Comments and questions are welcome, as always.

Why Can’t We Have The Best Of Both Worlds?

Jared Milne

January 6, 2014 | No Comments

I recently had an article published in my local newspaper outlining the distressing way in which Canadian politics has become increasingly polarized,policy debates often seem to be an all-or-nothing scenario, and how we as Canadians could change things for the better in 2014.

Comments and questions are both welcome and encouraged.

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The Commons has brought together a diverse cross-section of unique and intelligent voices to generate meaningful debate and discussion. All contributors have made the solemn commitment to cultivate respectful, honest, vigorous, and open dialogue—and to promote that very kind of dialogue within the larger Canadian political discourse.