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Ford rolls out online map to help find booze retailers as LCBO strike continues | CBC News



Ford rolls out online map to help find booze retailers as LCBO strike continues | CBC News

The Ontario government rolled out an online tool Monday to help consumers find outlets to buy beer, wine, cider and spirits, while some 9,000 LCBO workers remain off the job in a strike that shows no signs of ending.

The searchable digital map comes as the head of the union representing the striking workers said there are currently no further negotiations scheduled with representatives from the Crown corporation.

“This new map is a great way to connect people across the province to local Ontario-made products and support the hundreds of Ontario businesses and thousands of Ontario workers who make these products and serve customers each and every day,” Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.

“It also supports our plan to offer consumers the kind of choice and convenience available to other Canadians when purchasing alcoholic beverages, starting later this summer,” he said.

The government announced in May that it was accelerating a plan to vastly expand where beer, wine, cider and ready-to-drink cocktails can be sold in the province, with some of those changes being introduced as early as next month. 

The planned introduction of ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages into more retail locations was a main sticking point in contract negotiations between the union representing LCBO workers and their employer, which broke down last week. That resulted in workers walking off the job on Friday and the closure of hundreds of LCBO locations throughout the province.

JP Hornick, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), said Monday the union fears the government’s plan will undermine the viability of the LCBO because private retailers will be able to sell alcohol at lower prices, if they choose.

“This plan of the government’s seems almost written to undercut the LCBO as a retailer. And that’s where we look at the loss of up to thousands of good jobs in communities,” Hornick told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

In an interview later, Hornick said: “What would have been more useful as an interactive map for Ontarians would be one that directs them to a family doctor.”

In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the LCBO generated roughly $2.5 billion in revenue for the province’s coffers, a substantial portion of which is spent on key public services like health care and education.

WATCH | Hornick explains the union’s position: 

LCBO workers say expansion of alcohol sales is a threat to their jobs

More than 9,000 LCBO workers remain on the picket lines as the liquor store’s historic strike enters its fourth day. The union says the Ford government’s plan to open up the sale of ready-made alcoholic beverages is at the core of the dispute. Metro Morning guest host Molly Thomas spoke with JP Hornick, the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

The union has publicly pushed the Ford government to consider alternative retail models that would see more involvement from the LCBO, such as LCBO pop-ups and kiosks attached to grocery and big box stores.

But the province has shown no signs of backing away from its plan, with Ford, his cabinet ministers and various Progressive Conservative MPPs taking to social media over the weekend to tout the impending expansion of alcohol sales.

Hornick said the Ford government’s position has put significant strain on negotiations for a new contract with the LCBO.

“We’ve got the premier as a ghost at the table and he seems entrenched,” they said.

Asked if there were any further talks planned, Hornick said the union would welcome further bargaining “any time the premier is willing to have these discussions in a meaningful way.”

Other concerns for the union include wages and job stability. According to Hornick, roughly 70 per cent of the LCBO’s workforce is made up of casual and part-time employees.

The government’s new online map drew condemnation from the Ontario Liberals.

In response to a post on X, formerly Twitter, from the premier’s official account highlighting the tool with a video featuring Ford himself, Liberal MPP Adil Shamji alluded to Ontario’s ongoing health-care crisis.

“It makes me furious that [Ford] can publish an interactive map to find beer after just one weekend but he won’t do the same thing to help any of the 2.3 million Ontarians who can’t find a family doctor,” Shamji wrote.

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Marit Stiles said she would ensure revenue from the LCBO is used to support “our crumbling public services,” if she were premier.

“No one wants an LCBO strike. Respect for workers should not be a tall order,” Stiles said on X.

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