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Ontario’s Beer Price Conspiracy?

December 26th, 2008 · 3 Comments

News broke last week by Dean Beeby of The Canadian Press that the recent minimum price that beer can be sold in Ontario by the case, up to $25.60 from $24.00, was implemented by the LCBO on the recommendation of the Ministry of Finance.  This has sparked some discussion on Bar Towel and quite a few news articles in Toronto.

I’ll let you read the articles about what happened.  But there’s a few things troubling about this.

Firstly, the news of the increase wasn’t news at all – at least from the organizations responsible.  The LCBO’s spokesperson said that they don’t issue press releases for price increases.  This is evident through a search of Canada NewsWire, where they issue releases.  But the increase is supposedly part of their “social responsibility” commitment.  However, on the LCBO’s What’s New page in their web site’s Social Responsibility section, there’s nothing to be found either.  There’s nothing on the Ministry of Finance site or the AGCO’s site as well.  The only notice was on the LCBO’s Trade web site, a site meant for industry and not consumers.

It’s unfortunate that it took the investigation of a reporter to get the LCBO to talk about this.  If that wasn’t the case they probably wouldn’t have said anything publicly.  As the organization that has sole control over alcohol in Ontario this lack of openness is unfortunate.

Secondly, and a big one, is that the price recommendation came from Ontario’s Ministry of Finance.  Now it’s very troubling that this wasn’t publicized – it took a request under Ontario’s Freedom of Information act to get this information.  But as the reporter of the article pointed out, this raises doubts about the LCBO’s relationship with the government.  The LCBO spokesperson says that they make their own pricing decisions.  But the Ministry made this recommendation and the LCBO implemented it right away.  What could the Ministry ask for next that the LCBO will just put into place?  The LCBO, I believe, is supposed to represent the best interests of Ontario consumers.  To say that the price increase is for “social responsibility” yet it is rooted in a request from the finance ministry is fishy.  The Ministry of Finance’s mandate is to “promote a dynamic, innovative and growing economy and to manage the fiscal, financial and related regulatory affairs of the Province of Ontario”.  Therefore this decision is about money, not social responsibility.

Thirdly, and this is where the conspiracy comes in, is the possible involvement of the big brewers in this decision.  Discount brands in Ontario have been thriving in recent years – there are frequent “buck a beer” advertising platforms that have been quite successful.  Laker, a discount brand in Ontario, even had a web site called – this is now  It’s been said that the big brewers have been losing ground and money fighting against discount brands.  Having the minimum price raised eliminates a obviously successful marketing tactic but also helps level the playing field between the big brewers’ premium brands and discount brands.

Unfortunately what all this does is continue to highlight is the fact that Ontario doesn’t have an openly competitive market for beer and the force of the government is strongly evident.  Remember, the “C” in LCBO is “control”.  Don’t forget this – it is a telling reminder of how alcohol is treated in this province.

Tags: Government · LCBO · Media

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ruserious // Dec 29, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Wow, an Ontario government that refuses to listen to the customer when they ask them to open the Beer Store to competition and then operates behind the scenes in an almost invisible manner to raise the minimum price a foreign owned monopoly can sell their beer for!

    Yep. I’m convinced that they definitely have the best interests of the consumer in mind…

  • 2 beerdrinker // Apr 25, 2010 at 12:20 am

    It’s too bad control refers to controlling who gets access to our markets…

  • 3 D.D. // Mar 17, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I have been a bar owner for almost 20 years now. We use to have a discount on purchases since we were selling Brewer’s Retail products and collecting tax for the Government. Now we not only have lost our discounts but we are being charged $7 to $15. extra for every case of beer we buy. Ie: Consumer pays $32 for a case, licensees pay $45 for the same case/brand. Something wrong with the picture here>>> We are being penalized for selling BREWER’S RETAIL products. There is something wrong with the picture here. We cannot raise our present prices to reflect these over exaggerated prices we are now paying for every case of beer. So basically, that increase comes out of our prifit margin. What is the government trying to do? Put all Canadians out of business? They’re not looking for social responsibility they’re looking for more money. Pretty soon, no one will be able to afford having a business in Ontario. I suggest that all licencees stop selling Brewer’s Retail Products until licensee prices get adjusted to reflect consumer prices + the discount we use to have. Not an overcharge price. This is total discrimination against licensee owners. I hope someone will do something about this. NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO AFFORD A LIQUOR LICENSE IN ONTARIO. PLEASE SOMEONE OUT THERE, DO SOMETHING!!!