OPSEU President Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas is demanding that the LCBO is allowed to compete for new cannabis retail stores in Ontario.
Thomas made his demand just days after the province held its second lottery for 50 new retail cannabis locations. OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) represents about 150,000 employees that work for the provincial government, Ontario colleges, the health care sector and the LCBO.
“The private sector has had more than a year to set up the legal cannabis system, but has failed us at every turn,” Thomas said. “We still have too few stores and there have even been instances of companies falling prey to organized crime.”
He added the LCBO should be allowed to harness its knowledge of selling controlled substances, which would ensure “maximum revenue” for Ontario’s public services.
Following last year’s election victory, the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario abandoned the previous government’s plan to roll out a public system for retail cannabis.
OPSEU: Ford’s plan is failing
According to OPSEU, under the previous plan, Ontario would have opened 80 stores by August 2019. Instead, the Conservative’s private sector model has facilitated the opening of about 25 stores province wide.
“Failure isn’t a strong enough word for Mr. Ford’s privatization scheme – it’s an utter disaster,” said OPSEU first vice-president and treasurer Eduardo Almeida. “The premier chose to give his pals in the private sector a big cut of cannabis profits, and the people of Ontario are paying the price.”
Almeida also added it’s ironic that a government claiming to be a champion of open competition is forbidding one of the industry’s strongest competitors from entering the retail cannabis space.
“The LCBO is tried, tested, and true,” said Almeida. “By preventing it from competing, the premier is making it painfully clear that he’s not actually interested in competition. He’s interested in rewarding his corporate backers and party insiders.”
Retail cannabis banned in some municipalities
As well, Thomas points out that nearly 25 per cent of the province’s municipalities have banned private cannabis retailers from opening up shop.
“Polling and experience show us that Ontarians want cannabis retailers that can be trusted to put people over profits,” said Thomas. “At the very least, Ford should give municipalities that have opted out of private cannabis the opportunity to say yes to a publicly owned and managed cannabis retailer. Retrofit existing LCBO stores, and it could happen very quickly.
“Competition should be a two-way street, but I suspect that’s the last thing the premier wants to promote. Letting the LCBO and its frontline workers show what they can do would just make his private sector pals look even worse than they already do. “