Hudak longs for days of buck-a-beer

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak misses the days of "buck a beer," but those who treat addiction aren't so sure that cheaper suds is such a swell idea.

But McGuinty says province will not cut minimum price

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak may miss the days of "buck-a-beer," but Premier Dalton McGuinty says the Liberal government will not lower the minimum beer price.

Hudak made headlines Monday when he told reporters he lamented a 2008 decision that raised the minimum price of a 24-pack of beer to $25.60. It has since risen to $25.95, plus deposit.

"There are many folks, and myself included, who look forward to the $24 two-four on the May 24 weekend, that is now something in the past," Hudak said.

"I do hear from people who say 'C'mon, I can't even get a buck-a-beer in the province anymore thanks to Dalton McGuinty's policies?'"

But speaking on Tuesday in London, Ont., McGuinty said there's an arm's-length process at the LCBO to determine the minimum price for beer, and he has no intention of interfering with it.

McGuinty called the beer price debate a bright, shiny object to take attention away from the Tories' lack of a campaign platform.

The move to raise the minimum price of beer in 2008 came in response to lobbying by the brewing industry after some companies, like Lakeport Brewing Co., began undercutting some of the major brands by pricing 24-packs of beer at $24.

Hudak would not commit to making cheaper beer part of the Tories' platform in the provincial election set for Oct. 6.

The topic came up as Hudak was telling reporters how prices for everyday items, such as gas and electricity, have increased during McGuinty's watch.

Outside of the political debate over beer prices, those who treat addiction told CBC News that cheaper suds are a bad idea.

Juergen Rehm, the director of social and epidemiological research at CAMH in Toronto, which treats addiction and mental illness, said there's a reason beer prices are higher.

"What [Hudak is] saying is actually contradicting all science about the consequences of such a move," said Rehm.

"We know that if prices would actually be lowered, the death toll would increase. Of course there's tremendous costs also with the non-fatal consequences of alcohol, all the hospital costs, all the costs in criminality, etc."

With files from The Canadian Press