It started when the Ontario government announced it would allow the sale of beer in grocery stores, a practice that has been forbidden up to now.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is against the move. In a recent ad they termed the move a trade-off between “a little bit of convenience for a whole lot of pain and suffering.”
The reason, according to the Union, is that the availability of alcohol in Alberta grocery stores has made it 3.5 times more likely that the person buying it is driving drunk.
Many in Alberta object to their province being portrayed as a permissive haven for impaired drivers. And they have some reason to object. Let’s look at the facts:
- Alberta does indeed have more than 3 times the number of drunk drivers as Ontario
- However, all provinces with private alcohol sales do not outpace Ontario in the drunk driving department
- Moreover, all provinces with high drunk driving rates do not have private alcohol sales
So it does look as if the Ontario Public Service Employees Union are on shaky ground if they believe that allowing grocery stores to sell beer will unleash a plague of DUIs. It’s more complicated than that.
While controlled sales can be a factor in the prevalence of drunk driving, what matters more is good, visible DUI enforcement, including mandatory alcohol counseling and ignition interlocks, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
One hopes the two provinces will make peace and instead do battle with a common enemy: the very preventable crime of drunk driving.