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Ontario town backs scrapped LCBO pilot program to scan IDs

Click to play video: 'Why an Ontario town with fewer than 6,000 people has OPP’s largest jail'
Why an Ontario town with fewer than 6,000 people has OPP’s largest jail
RELATED: Advocates in a northern Ontario town are saying a lack of social services and government finding are failing thousands of vulnerable people every year. Sioux Lookout, Ont., a town with a population of just under 6,000, also houses the OPP's largest jail facility in the province. Isaac Callan explains why the small town, which is four hours north of Thunder Bay, Ont., has a jailhouse of this size – Feb 7, 2024

One of the Ontario municipalities where liquor stores were set to scan photo ID cards for customers to enter has come out in favour of the now-scrapped scheme.

The controlled entrance pilot plan was a short-lived policy unveiled by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) to cut down on theft.

It was announced in mid-February to run at six northern Ontario liquor stores in Kenora, Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay and would have required customers aged 17 and older to show government-issued identification to enter a liquor store.

As part of the process, the ID would be scanned.

Two days after the plan was unveiled, however, Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy killed it and ordered the LCBO to “cancel it immediately.” He said he had heard “serious concerns” about the program, with some groups raising privacy issues.

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The mayor of one of the Ontario towns set to take part in the pilot, however, argues it should still go ahead.

In a recent letter to the province, Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance said his town struggles with unique addiction and theft issues the pilot could have helped to address.

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“The Municipality was pleased when the planned implementation of the program was announced by the LCBO in mid-February,” Lawrance wrote in a letter addressed to Bethlenfalvy and shared with Global News.

“We were surprised when several days later the cancellation of the program was announced by the Provincial Government.”

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Ford government orders LCBO to end ID check pilot at some Ontario stores

In his letter, Lawrance estimated the gross cost of each theft from the LCBO in his town is around $665, with the vast majority of that cost coming from a $635 cost for every theft under $5,000 call.

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There are around 30 theft calls per year at the Sioux Lookout LCBO, according to the mayor. The overall cost would be around $20,000 per year, by Lawrance’s calculation.

“That is the cost whether the perpetrator is caught or not and if caught, whether the case is dismissed or not by the justice system,” the mayor said.

On Monday, Bethlenfalvy said that the LCBO was “responsible” for the pilot and that he had asked the organization to “review” its approach.

“Sioux Lookout is a very important community for us and in the province to make sure we provide the supports for the community, for the employees there, for everyone,” the finance minister said at Queen’s Park.

“The LCBO will continue to develop it.”

A spokesperson for the minister said the LCBO would continue to “work with its community partners to explore alternatives” to the ID card pilot.

Bethlenfalvy also said he did not get a “heads up” before the pilot he quickly cancelled was launched by the liquor control board.

He said he found out about the plan the day it was unveiled “or thereabouts.”

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