The Beer Store wants you to know that allowing alcohol sales in corner stores would basically be the worst idea in the world. At least that’s the takeaway from a new white paper commissioned by the foreign-owned booze conglomerate, which currently shares a monopoly on Ontario beer sales with the government-run LCBO. The results of the study were announced today by Beer Store president Ted Moroz.
“Prices will go up. Make no mistake. Beer, wine and liquor will be more expensive in Ontario,” Moroz said. “Our study shows that’s what happened in Alberta and British Columbia, while also showing that Ontario currently has among the lowest beer prices in Canada and a better beer selection than other provinces with deregulated systems.”
The white paper is the latest “tat” in an ongoing tit-for-tat battle between The Beer Store and the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, the group that’s been lobbying hard to bring beer and wine into private retailers like Mac’s and 7-Eleven. Last summer, the OCSA sponsored its own study, which found that the average price of a two-four at The Beer Store was 27 per cent higher than at private retailers in Quebec. Those conclusions were hotly contested by Beer Store sympathizers, who argued that the study failed to take into account Quebec’s lower taxes. The OSCA responded to this latest Beer Store blitz via Twitter:
Beer stores fund a study to discredit any potential competitors and protect monopoly. C stores in Ontario will not stop educating Ontarions
— OCSA (@OntarioCStores) February 11, 2014
UPDATE: What started as a slow-simmering debate has escalated into a full-on study-off. On February 12, University of Waterloo prof Anindya Sen, the economist behind the OCSA-commissioned study released last summer, rejected the conclusions reached in the Beer Store report and responded with his own study concluding that deregulation would see beer prices drop, at least at larger retailers.
Several critics, including Sen, have skewered the Beer Store study for looking at average prices across retailers, rather than lowest prices. They argue that while smaller shops may sell beer at a premium in places like Alberta and Quebec (the same way toothpaste costs more at a convenience store than it does at a major pharmacy), most people have access to large grocery chains, where they’re able to find deals on booze. Sen also takes issue with the Beer Store report’s potentially less-than-rigourous methodology: “I see some charts, I see some descriptions, but I don’t see the type of analysis you’d encounter in a peer-reviewed academic journal.”