Crisis Averted!

So, as of midnight today, the Ontario Public Service Employees (OPSEU) working for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) were supposed to go on strike. It’s the closest they’ve ever come to actually striking, so it’s been a terrifying few days for a lot of people, it seems.

The strike has been looming for a while and I guess the main issue is that LCBO is hiring more and more part-time and casual employees and less and less full-time employees. Anyway, the strike deadline was extended at the 11th hour, so while theoretically we still have the possibility of an LCBO strike, it’s unlikely to happen. 

For people outside of Ontario (or Canada in general)  who don’t understand how crazy the possibility of an LCBO strike has made people, a little background.

In Ontario, and most other Canadian provinces, if you want to buy bottles of alcoholic beverages you have to go to a provincially owned and operated store. In Quebec you can buy beer and wine in the dépanneurs (corner stores) and grocery stores. Some other provinces, like Alberta allow privately-owned liquor stores. But most of the alcohol sales in this country are controlled by the provincial governments.

In Ontario, as far as I know, the only places to buy liquor is an LCBO outlet. Individual wineries are only allowed to sell their own product and  The Beer Store (a conglomerate monopoly owned by a variety of international brewers are only allowed to sell beer).

An LCBO Strike would  also affect bar owners, hotels and restaurants who, as I understand it,  have to purchase all their hard liquor through LCBO.

Wineries and Beer Stores would not be affected by an LCBO strike. And Ontarians that live close to Quebec, Manitoba or the US could just hop across the border to buy liquor.

Still, there has been unbelievable mayhem in liquor stores across the province. Headlines like this graced our newspapers:

Fearful consumers empty LCBO shelves ahead of strike deadline (National Post, June 23)

20090623bg_lcbo01.JPG

Yes, people have been crazed with anxiety about the possibility of not being able to buy liquor. They’ve been stockpiling for days —  weeks even. There has been pushing and shoving at LCBO outlets. Anger, grumbling and fights over the last bottle of Absolut. The LCBO shelves are empty – of everything, even the Sparkling Baby Duck! Homes all across Ontario now feature thousands and thousands of dollars worth of liquor.

People have locked themselves and their loved ones up in basements with their liquor, beating off visitors with sticks. “We only have enough booze for the family. Go away!” they scream. Enterprising gangsters have filled their bathtubs with cheap grain alcohols and juniper berries. People foolish enough to find themselves without liquor roam the streets like zombies ready to kill for a liquor-soaked brain. (Okay, I have no concrete proof that this last paragraph is completely true).

Yes, it nuts that there is so much red tape involved in buying a bottle of vodka and maybe that’s part of what has been pissing people off — that the people who stack those bottles of vodka on shelves and the people who ring up your purchase at the cash register, have the power to decide whether or not you’ll be able to have a cocktail before dinner next week.

Still, as mental as all this is, in some ways I guess this speaks to how freakin’ good we have it here in this country that something so trivial can shift so many people into hyper-paranoia.

Access to liquor isn’t exactly an inalienable human right, is it? Maybe I don’t get it because I don’t really[1] drink hard liquor anymore. Sure, I enjoy a cold beer on hot day once in a while[2] and I have the usual few bottles of wine on hand to accompany a weekend dinner or whatever[3]. And when those run out I could just make the 15 minute trip to Gatineau. And even if I didn’t live that close to Quebec, I’d make do without.


[1] And by “really” I just mean I haven’t sworn off it or anything, I’m just not that interested in most of it. If I go somewhere and someone offers me a fabulous martini, I might succumb. And by “might”, I mean “probably.”

[2] And by “once in a while” I mean if I’m with a larger group of people. Somehow beer never tastes as good to me unless there’s a group. I don’t know why.

[3] And by “whatever” I mean sometimes after a long day or week I will have a glass of wine all by myself . And by “glass” I sometimes mean “tumbler.”

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38 responses to “Crisis Averted!

  1. Ha – the lineup looked like Virginians getting milk before a ‘snow storm (5cm)’!
    Glad it was averted – with all the people out of work, it’s almost insulting to hear of people going on strike (ie: Windsor…)

  2. We are on the same alcoholic beverage consumption schedule. I wouldn’t even notice if the North Carolina ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) (that sounds fascist, doesn’t it?) went on strike, but I know people who would have to be hospitalized if alcohol wasn’t easily obtained. One of them is my mother. mmmhhh, that’s it! Maybe I could orchestrate a strike…

  3. Could you imagine a possible ‘dry’ Canada Day? How weird would that be? LOL.
    Then again many of us are overly fond of beer, so it probably wouldn’t have been that big a deal.

  4. A looming strike is a really good way to get rid of allot of stock. I don’t think the LCBO is too worried about it

  5. “beating off visitors with sticks.”

    Really how perverse, one should always beat off visitors gently by hand and preferably with some sort of lubrication.

  6. Oh my gosh – it’s hilarious isn’t it? Last night as I stood in line at the LCBO I had an urge to burst into crazy laughter. I was soooo relieved to get the last case of Pomtinis.

    🙂

  7. If the SAQ went on strike it would be the same. Millions of Quebecers beating each other up for that bottle of wine.

    I’m sure the LCBO is thrilled with all that extra money in the coffers.

  8. You learn new things every day. I thought the Beer Store was a part of the LCBO.

    I don’t drink so an LCBO strike wouldn’t affect me but I found it funny that the conversation in the elevator of my building last night was about where the nearest liquor store was to where we were.

    Buck up, campers. If there’s a strike, you can always make pruno. 😉

  9. It’s like prohibition!

    So there’s a government-created monopoly on alcohol? That’s as bad as living in a dry county in Texas and having to drive 16 miles to the “beer joint” for liquor.

    Or (shudder) living in Oklahoma, where only “near beer” can be sold and having to drive to the NEXT STATE for real beer.

    I never would have figured Canadians for stampeding liquor stores, so I love this blog entry.

  10. Ian – Oddly enough even before scheduled snow storms the liquor stores are more frantically populated around here than the milk stores

    Lola – I think any strike more than a day and there’ll be cross-border smuggling going on, We humans are very resourceful that way.

    Hannah – You’d think it wouldn’t be a big deal, but you wouldn’t have said that if you’d seen the liquor stores yesterday.

    J – Ya, it’s funny how during most strikes or talk of strikes A LOT of the time it’s management who makes out like bandits while the workers and the general public gets screwed.

    Bandobras – Ottawa is full of uptight polititians, what can I say? We do things a bit differently here.

    Sky Girl – Ya, I saw that on your Facebook and I thought, “uh oh, I hope she doesn’t read the blog”. I’m glad you could see how hilarious it all was. Too bad not everyone could.

    Jazz – I suspect it might be even worse in Quebec – which is why convenience stores make sure they have lots of beer and wine on hand. I wonder if the SAQ was disappointed that they extended the strike deadline. I would think Gatineau had been stocking up just in case. And ya, I’m sure it was great for LCBO to get all those previously unsaleable items off their shelves.

    Violetsky – I don’t know. Would you drink it if they did? Andres — who used to make this stuff has morphed into Hillebrand and Peller Estates and bought Thirty Bench winery a few years ago. I don’t think any of them would be caught dead making something called Sparkling Baby Duck. Do you know where this name comes from, by the way? In Europe, at the end of a party they dump all the dregs of everyone’s wine glass into a big bowl and call it the “cold end” bowl. The German word for end is “ende”. The German word for duck is “ente”. Ergo, Cold Duck was born.

    Louise – Pruno! That’s hilarious. I’m going to send this to some people who will probably go and try to make it. Pruno is worth an entire blog post of its own.

    Wendy – Oh ya, Canadians love their liquor. It’s what keeps us warm in the brutal winters and not care so much about the sweltering hot summers. It’s also what keeps us so friendly and laid back.

  11. In the unlikely event of all the thousands of places you can buy booze in Scotland all going on strike, I suspect there would be mass suicides. Seriously.

  12. Well, I for one am glad that the strike has/will be averted. Now I can stop on my way home to buy the traditional end-of-year teacher’s gift: the LCBO gift card. Coz nothing says ‘thanks for educating my child’ like booze.

    (I did some research, asking a teacher friend of mine what teachers prefer as gifts. Her answer. “We don’t expect gifts, but if you’re going to buy one for the teacher, the top three things they like to get are: 1) LCBO gift card, 2) Chapters (book store) gift card, 3) Really good chocolate. Just so’s you know.)

    And if the strike is averted, sales will be abysmal for the next few weeks, as people drink their way through their stockpiles.

  13. This reminded me of how irritating it was that I had to go to the liquor store in Vancouver to buy beer. In Texas we can buy beer everywhere, even at the toy store. Well, okay, maybe not there.

  14. People in Africa line up for food and medication.

    Meanwhile, we’re having a big panic, because our supply of booze is being threatened.

    We have it WAY too easy, over here.

  15. Weird that they still make Baby Duck but apparently no longer make Cold Duck. I used to like me some Andres back in the day.

    That pruno article is great, isn’t it? I came across it several years ago while trying to explain how turducken is made to a coworker.

  16. *snork, guffaw*
    the footnotes? are PRICELESS. hahhahaha!!

    it’s the same here in oregon. we can buy liquor only at state stores, but beer and wine anywhere that has a license to sell it … which is pretty much anywhere that sells candy bars also.

    the taxes here are oppressive, tho. it’s a major reason why my 95-year-old grandfather refuses to move further than an easy drive from the border of california, where not only can you buy liquor in a 7-11, you can buy it a lot cheaper — even though all of his kids lived in the portland area for years and have begged him to consider moving closer, repeatedly.

    people do strange things for their booze. i admit i feel a little unhappy when i know there isn’t so much as a bottle of wine in the house, but i can’t see stockpiling. i think i’d just find another hobby for a few weeks. life is all about adventure.

  17. Loth – I would imagine a liquor strike in Scotland is akin to treason and punishable by death. Who would risk such an insane move?

    Alison – I never thought to give a teacher an LCBO gift card. Doesn’t seem right somehow. And your last point is exactly what the people at LCBO said today. We popped by at lunch time to see the carnage first hand. It seemed like almost everyone there was just there as a spectator. I did find a nice bottle of Bordeaux though.

    Geewits – I actually was thinking about you when I wrote this, wondering how irritating it would have been for you to have to go to a liquor store when you were in BC. HA! And hell, no liquor in the toy stores! That ain’t right. In my experience, that’s one place liquor is definitely required. Start a petition.

    Friar – Exactly what I said. We must have it damn good over here if this is the only thing we have to get riled up about.

    Louise – I didn’t find any evidence that they still make Baby Duck and I searched around the internet. I think our collective wine palates have become more sophisticated over the last 3 decades.

    Dave – That’s such a surprising equation coming from you of all people. (Not)

    Hallie – Thanks for reading the footnotes. So, it’s not really the same as in Oregon (Hey, do you know Dave from Portland who commented just before you? He’s like King of Portland or something, so I thought you’d know him) We can’t buy wine and beer anywhere except The Beer Store or the LCBO or directly from a winery. And ya, it’s nice to have something in the house in case guest come by or you need a quick, artificial mellow.

  18. Lucky for all Canadians there are directions on the Internet on how to make your own still. How are you all fixed for copper tubing?

  19. Hell, no. I have been to wine tastings hosted by Peller Estates where they explain in great detail how much has improved since the sad, sad days of the Baby Duck.

  20. My wife and I celebrated the news with a couple glasses of a nice Merlot this morning.
    Oh. did I just say “this morning”?
    One other outlet that would be unaffected by a strike (unless the supply chain was disrupted) would be the franchise outlets. In the Ottawa area, there is one in Navan and another in Osgoode. They are privately-owned and operated licensed sellers of beer and spirits. They are often found in rural areas where the small population size doesn’t merit a full blown LCBO or Beer Store.
    And how do i know this?
    Well, my family and I are vacationing in Muskoka next week and, upon hearing talk of a strike, my first call was to the franchisee located a 5 minute drive from the cottage.
    Just lookin’ after my interests, that’s all.

  21. Well, the way I look at it is teachers are people too, and might like to sit on their decks during the summer months and sip a glass of wine. And seriously, how many “World’s Best Teacher” mugs does one person need? I started doing this last year, and received some really fulsome thankyou cards.

  22. >>I didn’t find any evidence that they still make Baby Duck and I searched around the internet.

    Well, the LCBO web site still lists it as available and in stock in oodles of stores, so someone is still making it even if the Peller site refuses to acknowledge it even exists.

    >> I think our collective wine palates have become more sophisticated over the last 3 decades.

    Ha, the rest of y’all’s might have but mine is still decidedly unsophisticated. Give me a nice Spumante Bambino in a screw-top bottle and I’m a happy girl. Until it makes me sleepy…which is after about 1/2 a glass…which is why I don’t drink.

  23. First the bus drivers struck. I do not ride the bus, so I did nothing.

    Then the Toronto garbage workers struck. I do not live in Toronto (and I don’t produce much garbage), so I did nothing.

    Then the LCBO workers threatened to strike. I do not drink alcohol, so I’m doing nothing (although “nothing” is what non-drinking buzzkills like me do anyway).

    I fear my karma is wearing out and I’ll get my comeuppance! Diet Coke delivery truck drivers aren’t unionized, are they?

    – RG>

  24. Of course!

    And you can have every one of our ‘alike’s’

    Jest keep yer paws off ‘a the booze!

    OK,OK really, really bad joke!

  25. Silliness… all of it.

    The good thing about the LCBO is that, because of their buying power, they have an amazing selection of wines. (SAQ does as well.)

  26. Cedar – I think most of us have stills in our basement anyway to supplement the family booze supply. It’s often tough to get to a store in the middle of winter.

    Violetsky – Phew! Amazing isn’t it – how far old Andre has come?

    Trashee – Merlot for breakfast, eh? No wonder you can’t ever catch that early bus. (Frantically scribbling “Navan” in daytimer)

    Alison – No, it’s a great idea. All the teachers I’ve ever known had a massive collection of mugs. They were always the designated tea party hosts of the group.

    Louise – Well, I guess if you still like it, then it’s a good thing they still make it. Obviously you’re not alone.

    Grouchy – I’m pretty sure all truckers are unionized. Of course your comeuppance might come in the form of the dissolution of your stomach lining.

    Elliot – I didn’t know you were as close as Navan. I wonder why I thought you were way far away somewhere?

    Nat – They do have an amazing selection. They’re actually one of the largest buyers of wine in the world. They also have excellent wine tasting, wine paring and culinary classes and workshops to help you make good choices.

  27. I haven’t had Baby Duck since I was a wee lass back in Halifax (early 80s?) so I wouldn’t miss it if it were gone, but, yeah, clearly someone’s buying it or they wouldn’t keep making it. Unless….maybe they’re still just getting rid of all the bottles of it that they made back in the 80s. 😉

  28. Last time I checked – Andres still made and sold over a million GALLONS of baby duck a year

  29. i read this to the husband and i could barely get it out, i was laughing so hard. especially this part, “We only have enough booze for the family. Go away!” they scream.

    i said, “i thought canadians were friendly.” he said, “they are.” i said, “i guess as long as you don’t screw around with their liquor.”

    i know i did a generalization and i’m typically not a fan of that but sometimes i have to use it to set the tone.

  30. Grouchy – Excellent point!

    Louise – See Lebowski’s comment below — he knows.

    Lebowski – Can’t anyone stop them? Isn’t there some sort of law by now?

    Leah – Glad you enjoyed it. And we ARE friendly. And we’re friendly because we try to stay well lubricated…softens the edges.

  31. We also have private liquor stores in BC, FYI.
    The private ones tend to be smaller and yuppier, but they are everywhere … so, you only need to walk one block to get your booze rather than two to get to the BC Liquor store.
    I know, we have it rough in Lotus Land 😛

  32. I think that woman in the green t-shirt and the hat in the middle of the picture is actually CRYING.

    Footnote [1]….”and by probably, I mean I DEFINITELY WILL.”

  33. Quack – Ya, I saw that ya’ll had some private stores as well. Every province seems to have a big long set of rules of its own — I didn’t want to get into them all. Lucky you guys. Last night I had to get an emergency bottle of wine for a function and the damn store was closed at 6:15 and no where close by to get anything.

    Lesley – People were FREAKING OUT!!! It was whaddya call it – pandamonium, without the pandas.