Beer is on display inside a store in Drummondville, Que., on Thursday, July 23, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ontario to expand beer, wine to corner stores, finance minister says

The move comes after last spring’s election to offer consumers more choices to purchase booze

Ontario’s finance minister says the province will be moving ahead with an expansion of beer and wine sales into corner stores, big box stores and more grocery stores, promising the move will cut prices and prevent any potential privatization of the LCBO.

Vic Fedeli said Thursday that the Progressive Conservative government will make good on a pledge made during last spring’s election to offer consumers more choice when it comes to where they can purchase booze.

“Our government is actively working to expand the sale of beer and wine to corner stores, box stores, and even more grocery stores,” Fedeli said during a speech to a business audience in Toronto delivered ahead of his first provincial budget on April 11.

“We made a commitment during the campaign to provide consumers with greater choice and convenience, and we plan on delivering.”

Fedeli gave no timeline for the move but said greater competition in the sector will lower prices for consumers and expand product availability.

Ontario currently has the lowest density of retail outlets selling beer, wine, cider and spirits in Canada, Fedeli said, with less than 3,000 outlets selling alcohol compared to Quebec’s approximately 8,000.

The minister also said the government has no plans to privatize the LCBO despite receiving a report last fall that recommended consideration of the sale of some government assets.

Fedeli called the chain of over 600 LCBO outlets a “prestige asset in Ontario” and said a sell-off would not be part of the government’s plan to eliminate a deficit that the Tories have pegged at $13.5 billion.

READ MORE: Beer league brawl in West Kelowna blows up on social media

“We believe this will open it all up without any need whatsoever to privatize that valuable asset,” he said of the move to have alcohol sold in corner stores and big box stores.

Fedeli said the idea of selling government assets to address the deficit won’t help the government in the long run. He said the previous Liberal government’s sale of its General Motors shares and part of its Hydro One ownership stake just temporarily covered for budget problems.

“We have a structural deficit. That means the day-to-day bills that are being paid with borrowed money,” he said. ”Selling an asset doesn’t solve that, it only puts a band-aid on it for a year.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she would be focused on enhancing services for people of the province if she were premier, not expanding access to alcohol.

“We have a government that’s taking teachers out of classrooms, reducing autism services for kids but making sure that we can have beer in every corner store,” she said. “I think they have the wrong priorities.”

Last year, the Tory government cancelled a scheduled increase in the provincial beer tax, forgoing $11 million in potential revenue, and brought back so-called buck-a-beer.

Buck-a-beer lowers the minimum price of a bottle or can of beer to $1 from $1.25. Brewers are not required to charge less and the minimum price doesn’t apply to draft beer, nor does it include the bottle deposit.

READ MORE: Tossed beer can takes B.C. conservation officers to unlicensed guns

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said the move to greater availability of alcohol in corner stores is something that could require more public consultation.

“Change in alcohol and beer and wine (availability) in Ontario has always been very incremental,” he said. “We should talk to people. If we do something like that it has to be done in a responsible way.”

The previous Liberal government had expanded alcohol sales beyond the LCBO during their term, authorizing more than 350 grocery stores to sell beer and cider, and 70 to sell wine.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Long awaited Kelowna murder trial is scheduled to begin Monday

Stephen Pirko is charged in the killing of Christopher Ausman in 2014

Okanagan College bring hot bats to beat Dinos

The Coyotes now top the league

Kelowna awards recognize city’s cream of the crop

The 44th Annual Civic and Community Awards were April 24

Kelowna Falcons re-sign league MVP

Trent Tingelstad will return for the 2019 baseball season

Video: Large dust devil swirls through downtown Chase

Residents look on as column climbs about 90 feet into the air

University mourns student who died in B.C. canoeing accident

Andrew Milner, 19, was in his second year with the University of Calgary’s basketball program

RCMP arrest B.C. man following threatening Vaisakhi Facebook post

Post made reference to pressure cooker bomb at massive Surrey parade

Osoyoos among B.C. resort towns to get share of $2.5-million in tourism cash

Changes to RMI funding are bringing more money to places like Harrison and Tofino

Arrest made in off-road Okanagan park detour

RCMP air services helps track down 36-year-old suspect

Petition urges limits on retail cannabis stores in Summerland

Ban on downtown stores, increased regulations in other areas proposed

Canfor temporarily shutting down lumber mills across B.C.

Low lumber prices and the high cost of fibre are the cause of curtailment, according to the company

Okanagan physician and family reflect passion for medicine with hospital gift

Dr. Paul Cobbin and family donate to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation’s campaign

Most Read