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mark schatzker

If you really loved Ontario families, Mr. McGuinty, you'd kill the LCBO Add to ...

Dear Dalton,

Have you been taking testosterone pills? Did you purchase a set of unused testicles on eBay? Because I can't figure out why the premier who never met a fight he didn't back out of is considering liberalizing this province's liquor laws.

You, after all, are the very same premier who had the word Caledonia surgically removed from his cerebral cortex and who publicly asserted that black-only schools in Toronto were a bad idea, but steadfastly refused to get involved. You're a runner, Dalton. You ran from eco fees and teaching sex ed to Roman Catholics. Just last week you ran - make that sprinted - from wind power on the Scarborough Bluffs. Are you training for the Pan Am Games?

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And yet, here you are, ready to lock horns with the Presbyterian grandmother lobby over beer tents. Have you gone mad? Because I'm warning you, Dalton, there may be as many 300 staunch anti-tipplers out there in East York alone. And they're itching to set down their knitting needles and crochet hooks to write some angry letters.

Then again, you're not exactly liberalizing the liquor laws, are you. If anything, it's more like a minor de-escalation. You're getting rid of beer tents at festivals - I, for one, am looking forward to double fisting from the fourth row at this summer's Toronto Jazz Festival - pushing last call at weddings to 2 a.m., and finally permitting Ontario to compete with Caribbean all-inclusive resorts. (If only we could compete with their rum prices.)

The part I don't get is what Attorney General Chris Bentley said: "Our plan is to get rid of outdated restrictions that just don't make sense to Ontario families today." First of all, would it have killed the Attorney General to refer to said restrictions as "ridiculously, hilariously and absurdly outdated"?

More to the point, these aren't the liquor laws "Ontario families" are annoyed at. Ontario families, after all, aren't the ones who'll be lining up to get into all-you-can drink resorts. Ontario families tend to leave weddings well before last call. And if there's one thing Ontario families love - particularly the parents - it's a beer tent, because it's the only place you're sure not to find any children.

How do I know this? Because I, sir, am part of an Ontario family. I have three children below the age of five (every one of which, incidentally, is going to miss all-day kindergarten thanks to the egregiously slow rollout). I drive a minivan. And I know better than anyone the pernicious effect ridiculously, hilariously and absurdly outdated liquor laws can have on families.

For example: When an Ontario toddler melts down at dinner because his parents insist he at least try the homemade meatballs that his Ontario father slaved over, it would be nice if it were possible to procure some beer (which, studies show, can prevent heart disease when consumed in moderation) within, say, a streetcar stop of said meltdown.

But it's not.

Similarly, when a four-year-old informs her Ontario family there's going to be a clown performing at the birthday party they're on their way to, and it suddenly dawns on her Ontario parents that maybe they should have brought a bottle of wine, it would be nice if it were possible to stop on the way to get such a bottle of wine without making a 15-minute detour.

But it's not.

So if it's Ontario families you're worried about, Dalton, there's only one ridiculously, hilariously and absurdly outdated law you should overturn: the one barring corner stores from selling beer and wine.

Until then, Premier Dad, I'll keep an eye out for you over in the beer tent.

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