Expanding alcohol sales into convenience stores will give consumers more choice and stimulate the economy.

Mac’s Convenience Stores recently pledged to build 27 more stores in Ontario if the government allows them to sell alcohol, which would create 170 full-time jobs at the new stores alone. Over a thousand additional jobs and millions of dollars in investments will also be added to current stores.

Increased alcohol sales will also contribute substantial returns to the Ontario government. In 2012-2013, the provincial government received $791 million in tax revenue alone from the 634 LCBO stores and 219 agency stores in the province. If alcohol sales are opened up to the 10,000 convenience stores operating in Ontario, there will likely be a significant increase in tax revenue.

The main argument of those who oppose alcohol in convenience stores is that the LCBO transferred $1.7 billion to the Ontario government in 2012-2013, plus taxes. But no one is advocating for the privatization of the LCBO. Mac’s Convenience Stores Vice-President Tom Moher even told The Globe and Mail that there is room for both outlets to sell alcohol.

There is no evidence to back up claims that convenience store clerks will be more inclined to sell alcohol to minors than LCBO employees. Although some argue that convenience stores will be more lenient regarding alcohol sales in order to increase profits, the opposite is likely true. With the possibly of a $500,000 fine, it is not in the financial interests of a business to violate liquor laws. Convenience stores already sell cigarettes and lottery tickets, and follow strict guidelines requiring ID for these products. In fact, a Statopex Field Marketing study found that convenience stores were 12.7% better at denying sales to minors than the LCBO.

With the practical arguments debunked, the only remaining objection is a moral one. But the government can only go so far in protecting people from themselves. Unfortunately, there will always be people who become addicted to alcohol, just as there will be those who are addicted to gambling, eating, and other compulsive habits. Expanded alcohol sales will not change this, nor will government monopolies prevent alcoholics from obtaining addictive substances.

The majority of Ontarians drink responsibly, and objections to convenient access to alcohol are outdated and paternalistic. Adults have the freedom to make their own decisions. I personally do not want the government to legislate against my lifestyle choices.

Originally published in The Fulcrum as part of “Point Counterpoint – Should the Sale of Alcohol in Ontario be Privatized?” by Madison McSweeney and Nadia Drissi El-Bouzaidi, October 10, 2013

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