Politics
Ontario premier has no plans to allow beer in corner stores

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne

Credits: Pete Fisher/Northumberland Today/QMI Agency

ANTONELLA ARTUSO | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- Ontario corner stores will stay "dry" as long as Premier Kathleen Wynne is calling the shots.

"We have no intention of allowing the sale of beer in convenience stores," Wynne said Monday.

A new study by The Beer Store says that prices would rise and selection decline if the provincial government expanded private alcohol sales.

The New Democrat Party also does not support beer sales in corner stores.

"Nobody in Ontario has difficulty finding a Beer Store -- we've got great selection -- so why go out and try to fix what ain't broke," NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has proposed opening up alcohol retailing so that beer, wine and spirits would be available at convenience stores and grocery outlets.

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) has released a poll that shows the majority of people would like the option of purchasing their beer at a corner store.

OCSA points out that The Beer Store -- owned by Molson Coors, Anheuser-Busch and Sapporo -- is the only privately held beer monopoly in the country.

In a speech Monday to the Toronto Board of Trade, The Beer Store president Ted Moroz said that all brewers can sell their product through the existing retail system.

The Beer Store has no role in deciding which products to stock or what prices to set, he said.

A study commissioned by The Beer Store found that prices rose in B.C. and Alberta at double the rate experienced in Ontario after private liquor sales were expanded in those provinces, Moroz said.

The Beer Store predicts that Ontarians would pay $10 more for a two-four of beer if corner stores were allowed to sell alcohol because overhead would increase with more outlets and transportation costs.

Customers who support alcohol sales in convenience stores tend to do so because they believe -- falsely -- that it will be cheaper, Moroz said.

Ontario does allow agency stores to sell alcohol in remote or rural communities, but most people have to purchase their booze at LCBO outlets or The Beer Store.

A pilot project underway would see the creation of "LCBO Express" boutiques within some grocery stores.

According to Moroz, the Ontario government takes in about $3 billion a year in booze taxes and LCBO transfer payments.

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