Russia: "Normalising the beer production market and classifying it as alcohol is totally the right thing to do and will boost the health of our population," Yevgeny Bryun, the ministry of health's chief specialist on alcohol and drug abuse, said. "We have been talking about and have wanted such a measure for ages. I take my hat off to the parliament." The new law would restrict beer sales at night, ban its sale in or close to many public places such as schools, and limit cans and bottles to a maximum size of 0.33 litres.
Ontario: If Ontario was really serious about easing Ontario's liquor laws so responsible adults can enjoy a beer with less bureaucracy, the government should be looking at the sale of beer and wine in convenience stores -- not just festivals and tailgate parties. We know this is something Ontarians want. In 2010, pollster Angus Reid asked Ontarians about beer and wine in convenience stores and 63% immediately supported the idea. Many Canadians outside Ontario have enjoyed this convenience for decades.
Russia and Ontario? You must find the comparison strange... unless you have lived in Ontario and have a sense of how the Liquor Control Board of Ontario has maintained its grip over sales of what is an ordinary grocery store shelf item in nearby neighbouring jurisdictions. You should have a sense that access to beer is suddenly an issue in Ontario. But it is also a cultural issue - massively consumed yet also a key to that undertone of individual unease that somehow serves as a societal cornerstone here.
We have seen how Ontario's early history up to about 1840 was centered around the tavern, themselves government institutions originally. Fortunately, now you can also get a rapid education on the more recent history played by the LCBO in the control of society by picking up a copy of Punched Drunk, a 2009 trade paperback that describes the surveillance techniques and policies used by the LCBO from 1927 to 1975. The LCBO during that period kept files and punch cards aggregating data on every purchaser of booze, analyzing the result and blacklisting citizens who over purchased in the opinion of the bureaucrat.
Authors Thompson and Genosko review such record keeping technologies as Liquor Permit Cards carried by individuals, Liquor Permit Books and Purchase Order Forms as well as processes that challenged the concept of due process to show how a branch of the state (with fairly autonomous regulation making powers, too) controlled society with special attention to aboriginal Canadians, women, manual labourers and northerners. In the 1980s I still lived in a world where friends obtained liquor cards but I have not filled out a form to buy beer. [In case you are wondering, I never needed the permit being over six foot tall before I hit my teens.] But I never lived in a world where you could be "preventively canceled" - meaning your classification as a person barred you from alcohol purchase without having ever personally broken a law.
This is eye opening stuff and a great addition to the recent literature and collective understanding of the regulation of booze in Canada. It's also necessary to understand why our current Premier can actually speak of "just kind of growing up a little bit as Ontarians" and why we can actually think about our allegedly free selves and long considered less than free Russians in the same context.