Politics
Ontario pilot project will allow booze sales in supermarkets

Credits: Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency

ANTONELLA ARTUSO | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- Ontario will launch 10 pilot "LCBO Express" kiosks within grocery stores to make wine, beer and liquor purchases more convenient to customers, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said.

The mini-LCBO outlets will be opened over the next 18 months in locations to be announced, but the venture could quickly be expanded to include many more grocery stores -- if successful, he said.

Five VQA "boutiques" offering the best of Ontario wines will also be placed within larger LCBO stores, he added.

"This is a new way to distribute our product, make it more consumer accessible and at the same time make sure we don't have alcohol on every street corner in Ontario," Duncan said Monday. "What we find is most Ontarians like the LCBO and the way it operates. They want more convenience."

LCBO staff would operate the express outlets which would function as a store within a store -- similar to the Ontario wine boutiques now found in some grocery marts.

In early December, Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak called for a more open alcohol market in the province, but the Ontario Liberal plan differs significantly from the Conservative proposal.

Hudak has promised a Tory government would end the LCBO and Beer Store monopolies, opening up alcohol sales to private competition.

Hudak's plan would allow the sale of wine, beer and liquor right off the shelf of convenience and grocery stores.

The Ontario Conservatives would also consider privatizing the publicly owned liquor retailer, but at the very least would not build any more LCBO stores, Hudak said.

PC MPP Peter Shurman said the Liberal plan could be dismissed as "Hudak light" and is an attempt by the McGuinty government to move the public spotlight away from the current crisis with teachers.

In a population of 13 million, 10 boutique stores don't add up to a real plan for alcohol sales, Shurman said.
"It's silliness," he said.

NDP MPP Michael Prue said he believes people will be pleased with a plan that increases convenience and choice but leaves the LCBO in charge of operations.

"We've seen a lot of schemes to sell off the LCBO from Liberals and Conservatives, but time and time again they realize that keeping it in the public hands works for the people of Ontario," Prue said in a statement.

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