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Quebec's sad SAQ


Some of you might start to think of this space as the LCBO/SAQ bashing corner, and my apologies if recent posts have been a bit monothematic in that regard, but I just can’t avoid the unfolding story of what’s happening in Ontario and Quebec right now with respect to exposure of what’s up at the two province’s alcohol monopolies.
Events unfolding at Ontario’s LCBO and Quebec’s SAQ are eerily similar. Both these monopolistic entities have come under fire recently for such things as (in SAQ’s case) padding profits by NOT passing on to consumers savings from, among other things, a devalued Euro. I mean, if these agencies are actually gouging consumers, doesn’t that fly in the face of their very raison d’etre?
Do yourself a favor and read fellow blogger Usman Valiante’s entry yesterday on this topic. Just so you know, he arranged to have the La Presse article on SAQ translated. In other words, this is the only place you’ll get that amazing article in English. This is a big part of the problem, you see. Ontario and Quebec together constitute the largest market in Canada and share very similar approaches to such things as wine and spirit bottle recycling. But the two solitudes persist and don’t pursue a potentially powerful collaboration in how they reform their liquor agencies. This is a missed opportunity and a huge shame.
Yet, right now, at this moment in history, something may be possible. Both agencies are, right now! in the midst of accounting scandals. Both have a dismal record in true bottle-to-bottle recycling. In Ontario, which has a better recovery rate than Quebec, glass recycling is mostly “downcycling” into low-value aggregate. The recent O-I Canada paper (posted on this site under Posted Documents) reveals that glass from The Beer Store is propping up and masking what is actually a poor performance for LCBO glass recovery.
The time is ripe for the governments in both Ontario and Quebec to talk to one another, and develop a parallel strategy to place SAQ and LCBO glass on deposit-refund. It’s time to resist the sham data and the well-paid lobbyists and (a) privatize these money-losing (you read correctly) moribund entities and open them up to true competition and (b) place their containers on deposit.
Ah, but there’s only one catch, and that is that our governments HAVE NO GUTS! I forgot that, you see. Unless public opinion polls show that the public’s view is off the charts negative on a topic, the government will sit on its hand. And most people have been bamboozled by the LCBO bribing its customers with their own money, setting up fancy stores so they will “like” the LCBO and not want it changed. (The renovations have not increased sales, by they way, and have helped the corporation lose tons of money.)
All of that ties in with Usman’s other blog entry yesterday, his review of the book On Bullshit that I also recently read. I can’t think of a better example of “bullshit” (in the proper sense of the word) being used to protect corporate fiefdoms and delude policymakers than Quebec’s SAQ and Ontario’s LCBO. Making the connection between the environment, recycling, deposit-refund avoidance, and accounting problems is the key to unlocking the puzzle. There’s enough ammo there for either government to substantiate why they are going in there and cleaning house.
If only they would!


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