At the Liquor Control Board of Ontario thieves stealing bottles of booze from LCBO stores is apparently nothing to get concerned about — the losses are incurred by Ontario taxpayers after all. Yet when it comes to the practice of journalism? That prompts LCBO management to call the police!
Incredible, but true: the LCBO is completely nonchalant when it comes to skyrocketing theft at its retail stores. But as we found out the other day when reporting the actual extent of the theft, the LCBO subscribes to a “shoot the messenger” mantra.
First off, employees and a security guard at the LCBOS’s Queen’s Quay store tried blocking our cameras. When that didn’t work, they actually called the Toronto Police Service.
Apparently, the practice of journalism is a thought crime when it comes to Ontario’s liquor monopolists. The cops never did show, however, they probably had real crimes to attend to — like gun violence.
The backstory goes back more than a year ago. That’s when Rebel News and some other media outlets first began reporting on the theft problem at the LCBO, something that has noticeably increased in recent months.
But it wasn’t just the theft that was the issue — it was the response to the theft by the LCBO. Namely its response of “look the other way and do virtually nothing.”
Indeed, according to the LCBO’s theft policy, workers shall not attempt to detain or arrest thieves. Instead they’re supposed to alert police or security personnel. Fantastic! Surely that thief is going to politely wait around until law enforcement drops by to make an arrest.
Not surprisingly, according to LCBO whistleblowers, the LCBO’s shop theft policy is a giant loophole that is routinely being exploited by criminals.
All retailers must deal with theft, but given that the LCBO is government-owned (a.k.a., taxpayer-owned), all Ontarians have a stake in this entity that is clearly being mismanaged when it comes to the “five-finger discount” problem.
How much thievery is actually occurring at the LCBO? Incredibly, the LCBO refused to comment, even though this is a government entity that is allegedly committed to transparency and “social responsibility.”
So, we filed a Freedom of Information request for the nitty-gritty numbers. Amazingly the LCBO still denied the release of the theft numbers based on five reasons:
- Advice to government
- Law enforcement
- Economic and other interests of Ontario
- Personal privacy
- Excluded employment and labour relations information.
So what do those five reasons actually mean in tangible terms? Frankly, we have no idea.
Take “advice to government.” The LCBO, as a crown corporation, should actually be taking its advice from government (unless the tail wags the dog in Ontario these days).
As for “personal privacy”? We’re not asking for the names of the thieves (as if criminals are entitled to privacy, anyway). We just wanted the sheer dollar amount of the thievery.
What about “law enforcement”? It would seem that the bureaucrats the liquor board are just making up nonsense to cover their collective butts.
But at Rebel News we don’t bend the knee. So, we appealed the decision and we scored yet another victory when we won our case. And we now — finally — have that number!
In fiscal year 2018–2019, the LCBO saw more than $5.1 million of booze disappear. Worse, as we discovered in reporting this story, the LCBO is far more concerned about keeping this number secret than actually clamping down on the thievery!
And the thievery is a growing racket. Much of the booze being stolen form the shelves of LCBO stores is destined for the resale market. Translation: many of the thieves aren’t impoverished alcoholics or destitute tramps, but illicit entrepreneurs.
What a fantastic business model: just imagine, receiving all of your stock for free... or more accurately, getting your stock paid for by the Ontario taxpayer. Gee, is this what Premier Doug Ford meant in 2018 when he pledged that under the PCs Ontario would be “open for business”?
Alas, we’ll never know. Not only did the LCBO headquarters refuse to comment, but calls and emails to the office of Rod Phillips, Ontario’s finance minister, were not returned.
It’s enough to cause one to drink.