As the pandemic worsens in Quebec the Health Ministry is obliged to shut down retailers, restaurants, and bars, but they have acquiesced to businesses that provide essential service. To my mind that probably means grocery stores, pharmacies, perhaps even Barber Shops and Hair Dressers. However, I would never have guessed that the SAQ’s need to be open would be essential to anyone other than the Government of Quebec, who collects taxes on every purchase. The SAQ as far back as I can remember (1945) when I was five years old and would walk over to the Liquor Commission on Laurier Ave with my Father was always a cushy job that one needed strong connections to be hired. It involved a clerk wearing a smock to take your order (and your cash) at the counter and then go into the back of the cage and emerge with a brown paper bag with your purchase in hand. I was told, in time, that this was a high paying job and it is my belief that the salary today would be even higher.
So let me expound on that principle. Someone who in normal times earn a significant salary and if the need arises to close the store, he may have a little put aside for a rainy day. On the other hand, a clerk working in a minimum wage job, who cannot withstand a shutdown of his employer, is sacrificed. An owner of a book store cannot stay open because it is not an essential service, but a multinational corporation like Costco or Wal-Mart can sell books. In a just society, only the grocery department and the Pharmacy of both the above-mentioned corporations would be allowed to be open. That would make a level playing field. Otherwise, when this pandemic is over, many small and medium businesses will no longer exist but the Costcos and the Wal-Marts will continue to prosper and to pay taxes and that’s essential.