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Friday, March 29, 2019

Beer and wine are officially coming to Ontario convenience stores

At long last, the province of Ontario will be joining Quebec, many U.S. states and pretty much all of Europe in allowing booze to be sold at convenience stores (or, as our neighbours in Michigan often call them, "party stores").

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli confirmed during a speech in Toronto on Thursday that the PC government will be announcing the expansion of beer and wine sales into corner stores on April 11 as part of its new budget.

"Our government is actively working to expand the sale of beer and wine to corner stores, box stores, and even more grocery stores," said Fedeli to what the Candian Press describes as a "business audience" at Toronto's Empire Club.

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

Fedeli did not say when we can expect to see alcohol sold at bodegas and big box stores like Costco, but is confident that the move will drive down prices on both wine and beer in general.

With just 3,000 retail outlets selling wine, beer, cider and spirits province-wide, Ontario currently has the lowest density of places to buy alcohol in Canada. Fedeli says that expanding this number would increase options for consumers, as well as prevent the need to consider privatizing the LCBO.

"We believe this will open it all up without any need whatsoever to privatize that valuable asset," said Fedeli of the Crown corporation.

"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."

Some in the province, including opposition leader Andrea Horwath, aren't thrilled to see the government focusing its attention on expanding access to booze.

"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 in a statement on Thursday. "I think they have the wrong priorities."

 The PCs suggest that allowing big box stores, convenience stores and more grocery stores to sell booze would simply generate more revenue for the province by increasing the availability of alcoholic products for people to buy.

More details as to when we can expect any of this to happen are expected to be released with Fedeli's first provincial budget on April 11.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

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