The LCBO Strike: A Potential Backfire as Ontarians Adapt

Jul 7, 2024

The ongoing strike by Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) workers appears to be making less of an impact than anticipated, as Ontarians find alternative sources for their alcoholic beverages. This situation highlights the changing landscape of alcohol retail in the province and raises questions about the future of the LCBO’s monopoly.

Many residents seem unfazed by the strike, with reports indicating little public attention or support for picketing workers. This lack of concern can be attributed to the gradual liberalization of alcohol sales in Ontario over recent years, which has expanded purchasing options beyond LCBO stores.

Ontarians now have several alternatives for buying alcohol:

Grocery stores selling beer and wine
The Beer Store
Wine Rack locations
Direct purchases from local breweries, distilleries, and wineries
LCBO Convenience Outlets
Licensed bars and restaurants

This diversification of alcohol retail has significantly reduced the LCBO’s leverage during labor disputes. As consumers adapt to these alternatives, the strike may inadvertently demonstrate how unnecessary the LCBO’s monopoly has become in the modern retail landscape.

The strike could potentially backfire on the LCBO in several ways:

Reduced relevance: As Ontarians become accustomed to purchasing alcohol from various sources, they may question the need for a government-run liquor retailer.

Loss of market share: Competitors and alternative retailers may gain loyal customers during the strike, potentially leading to long-term shifts in consumer behavior.

Pressure for further liberalization: The strike might encourage the government to accelerate plans for privatizing alcohol sales, which could threaten the LCBO’s current model.

Public perception: The union’s claims about the LCBO being “Ontario’s best-kept secret” and attempts to link the strike to broader issues like the Ontario Science Centre closure may be seen as out of touch, potentially eroding public sympathy.
While the LCBO generates significant revenue for the province – approximately $2.5 billion annually – the strike is prompting discussions about whether this model is still necessary or beneficial for Ontario consumers. Critics argue that privatization could lead to job losses and reduced wages in the sector. However, others point out that the difference between LCBO starting wages and those in unionized supermarkets is minimal, questioning what exactly is being protected by maintaining the current system.

As the strike continues, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Ontarians have adapted to a more diverse alcohol retail landscape. This adaptability may ultimately force both the LCBO and the provincial government to reconsider the crown corporation’s role in a rapidly evolving market.

Contributing Writers

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