This anniversary is an opportunity to acknowledge the progress Quebecers have made over the past three decades, and focus on the positive changes in our relationship to alcohol, while also recognizing the problems that still exist.

The anniversary campaign has a very simple message for the people of Quebec: none of us is perfect, and we still have a long way to go when it comes to drinking, but we have also accomplished a great deal. So congratulations on 30 years of moderation!

Notable progress and a two-part ad campaign

Éduc’alcool is not solely responsible for the advances Quebec has made over the years. But the organization has most definitely made a significant contribution to the changes observed over the last 30 years. The following statistics tell just part of the story:

  • Across Canada, Quebec has the highest percentage of drinkers, but it ranks among the lowest in terms of alcohol abuse.
  • Quebecers drink more frequently than other Canadians, but they abuse alcohol less frequently.
  • The percentage of fatal accidents due to impaired driving has dropped 20% over 30 years, from 50.3% to 30.3%.
  • High school students in Quebec are drinking less, they are drinking excessively less frequently, and they are waiting longer to start drinking.
  • Across Canada, Quebec has the lowest percentage (2.7%) of people with an alcohol dependency.
  • Three times more Quebecers than other Canadians are familiar with the low-risk drinking guidelines publicized by Éduc’alcool.
  • 91% of Quebecers say Éduc’alcool is an organization to be proud of.
  • 95% of Quebecers say Éduc’alcool is useful to society.
  • Éduc’alcool enjoys 97% credibility in Quebec.
  • More than 90% of Quebecers are aware of the Éduc’alcool slogan, La modération a bien meilleur goût/Moderation is always in good taste, which has become something of a proverb in Quebec.

To mark Éduc’alcool’s 30th anniversary, a television ad campaign (in French only) run throughout October 2020, focusing on two key areas where prevention efforts have made a difference:

Impaired driving

Liza Frulla, General Director of the ITHQ (Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec) and Jean-Marie de Koninck, the founder of Operation Red Nose, note improvements in road safety observed in Quebec over the last 30 years. Both were chosen because of their connection to Éduc’alcool’s longest-standing partnerships: 28 years with Operation Red Nose and more than 20 years with the ITHQ.

Drinking among young people

Guylaine Tremblay, Quebec’s most popular actress, and comedian Pierre-Yves Roy-Desmarais, who hosted the Éduc’alcool Club du Savoir boire, cover the progress made with regard to young people and drinking.

For the English-speaking population

A radio campaign on CKBE-FM “The Beat,” with hosts Donna Saker, Nikki Balch and Cat Spencer commenting on Éduc’alcool’s achievements over the years.

A contest to promote moderation

Too many people are still exceeding the low-risk drinking limits too often.

Éduc’alcool is therefore taking advantage of the anniversary campaign to launch a contest that encourage people to stick to the recommended low-risk drinking guidelines. En octobre, on compte ses verres (in French only) was launched September 28.

Throughout October, people across Quebec can play by counting their drinks and sticking to the limits, which makes them eligible to win a $1,000 gift card, valid at the restaurant of their choice.

A brief history of a major community effort

Thirty years ago this year, five people of good will got together to implement a grand idea: to create an alcohol “user’s manual” for people who choose to drink.

The five were Colette Gilet, a promotional agent, Claude Marier, Vice President of the SAQ, Pierre Desmarais, then a senior executive at one of Quebec’s largest wine companies, Pierre Touchette, a senior executive at a major distillery, and Ghislain K. Laflamme, President of the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (RACJ).

All of them believed it was important to eschew the example of the cigarette companies, which had denied the dangers of tobacco, hidden research results and deceived consumers. Instead, they chose to shoulder their social responsibility and do something to compensate for the problems alcohol abuse was causing in Quebec. They named the organization Éduc’alcool.

In constant evolution

At first, compensation took the form of financial contributions. Cheques were written to help other organizations repair the damage caused by alcohol abuse, and reduce the harmful impact of excessive drinking.

Then Éduc’alcool took on the challenge of prevention. The organization decided to work to prevent alcohol-related problems, hoping to nip them in the bud rather than try to remedy them after they had arisen.

That is how Éduc’alcool’s educational programs came into being. At the same time, the old slogan, La moderation a bien meilleur gout/Moderation is always in good taste, which the SAQ had stopped using, was dusted off and purchased for one symbolic dollar—probably one of the best business deals ever made in Quebec.

Éduc’alcool also chose a marketing approach: rather than bombard consumers with its message, it asked consumers what they were interested in with regard to alcohol and drinking.

Not long afterward, seeking to broaden the range of expertise on its Board of Directors, Éduc’alcool added seats on the Board for directors from various backgrounds and no connection to government or the alcoholic beverage industry.

Over time, Éduc’alcool’s opinion was solicited increasingly by the media, government and public figures. Whenever alcohol was being discussed, the organization would be asked to contribute to the conversation.

In the process, the organization noted serious gaps in Quebec’s legal and regulatory landscape, and it invited members of the industry to come up with a Code of Ethics more restrictive than existing legislation. The response was unanimous, and restaurant and bar owners signed on. And so, the Ethics Council of the Alcoholic Beverage Industry in Quebec born. In the 13 years since then, the Council has effected profound changes in the industry’s communication, promotional and marketing practices.

The next big move was from promoting the idea of moderation to quantifying it. Éduc’alcool threw itself into publicizing the low-risk drinking guidelines as part of an 11-year plan that, nine years in, has achieved spectacular results.

Credibility and respect

Numerous testimonials and actions speak volumes about what Éduc’alcool has accomplished in three decades. Here are just a few examples:

  • In 2010, the National Assembly, in a unanimous motion, congratulated Éduc’alcool for its “exemplary contribution to making Quebecers more accountable and aware with regard to their drinking.”
  • Éduc’alcool publications on alcohol and health are distributed in hospitals and CLSCs. Each one is reviewed by the top scientific experts on the subject covered. All these experts have gladly endorsed the publications, and all have refused remuneration.
  • When Claude Béland, an outstanding Quebecer who left us not long ago, was asked to preside over the Ethics Council of the Alcoholic Beverage Industry in Quebec, he accepted immediately, as did Robert Dutton, another notable Quebecer, who succeeded Mr. Béland.
  • More recently, Éduc’alcool decided it wanted a Scientific Advisory Council to assist with its contemplation of the long-term issues related to alcohol and drinking. An ideal list of seven well-known experts in various scientific fields was drawn up; all seven said yes.

Éduc’alcool speaks to people, engages in dialogue with them, and tries to convince them. But it takes credibility and respect to be heard. We have earned both by:

  • taking serious positions on the issues;
  • making well-founded recommendations;
  • influencing public decision-makers in setting regulations for the alcoholic beverage industry;
  • denouncing reprehensible behaviour by some industry members.

Looking to the future

Clearly, our work is not complete. There are still so many problems, and much remains to be done to end impaired driving, stop alcohol-related domestic and sexual violence, reduce alcohol dependency, continue to advance the culture of moderation, and build even greater respect for the recommended drinking guidelines.

We are very proud of the fine work Éduc’alcool has done with and for the people of Quebec, but we do not intend to rest on our laurels. We will continue to put everything into maintaining the remarkable trust and credibility Quebecers have shown in us, and upon which our success rests.

These days, the value of moderation is being undermined by libertarian and individualist influences that reject anything resembling information or advice in the name of the so-called freedom to do whatever they like. This can lead people to think of alcohol as just another product, which it is definitely not.

On the other end of the spectrum are the growing number of ideologues and moralizers who use pseudo-science to distort the facts, lumping alcohol and tobacco together as products to be demonized and banned completely.

That is why Éduc’alcool’s balanced voice must be heard and listened to. Our values of thoroughness, integrity, balance, and respect for conviviality have always mattered, but now they have become critically important.

So much has been accomplished in 30 years, and so much more remains to be done.

If it is to continue making advances over the next 30 years, Quebec needs Éduc’alcool more than ever.