Doug Ford wants beer and wine in corner shops, here’s how
It has been almost a century since Prohibition ended in Ontario. It’s time to update the way alcohol is sold in this province.
Trucks and recycling are the two topics that are at the heart of the negotiations to bring beer and wine to corner shops.
Earlier this week Prime Minister Doug Ford said he hasn’t backed down on his 2018 campaign promise to bring beer and wine to Ontario’s convenience stores, but there are discussions.
These discussions are primarily with The Brewer’s Retail, also known as The Beer Store.
“We’re going to make a deal with The Beer Store,” Ford said when asked about the issue Monday.
The contract between the province and the private beer shop doesn’t expire until 2025, but all sides have decided they want to strike a deal sooner rather than later. Once upon a time, The Beer Store was firmly opposed to selling beer in corner shops, as is the case in Quebec, Newfoundland and many American states.
The company was founded in 1927 at the end of Prohibition by a consortium of Ontario breweries and is currently owned by Molson, Labatt and Sleeman. The Beer Store has had a near monopoly on sales for most of its existence, so it was not surprising that they opposed expanding options for consumers, but there was also a treaty with the province that placed conditions on the stores and in return the limited sales of beer could be sold.
When the McGuinty government announced in 2006 that the province would impose a deposit on wine and liquor containers, it set up the recycling program through The Beer Store rather than the province-owned LCBO. The Beer Store already had the ability to collect empty beer cans and bottles and agreed to facilitate this new program.
This recycling program is now critical to The Beer Store’s operations, but also critical to the province as it is struggling to deviate from the current blue box recycling program, giving The Beer Store some leverage in the negotiations. The Beer Store recognizes that change is coming. They won’t stop the Ford government from allowing corner shops to sell beer and wine, but they can fight to survive by maintaining product distribution and using recycling as a bargaining chip.
That’s not a done deal, the big grocers like Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro also want to control the distribution of alcohol to their own stores, but also to corner shops. For them, becoming a wholesaler for smaller chains or becoming an independent retailer for other products like crisps or paper towels is a no-brainer.
The simplest solution for the Ford government would be to entrust The Beer Store with the distribution of alcohol to the corner shops. This saves the recycling program the province depends on, it saves The Beer Store’s continued existence, and it saves the jobs of more than 6,000 well-paid workers across the province, a fact that hasn’t escaped the attention of the Prime Minister.
On Monday, he made it clear that he wants more consumer choice, including not just beer and wine at grocery stores, but also at big retailers like Costco and corner shops.
It might seem like a radical change to some, but across much of the province, people buy alcohol this way. In smaller rural areas, both the LCBO and the Beer Store use agency stores as local retail outlets.
These agency stores can be found in grocery stores, corner shops, and even gas stations in hundreds of locations across the province. Buying beer from a corner shop might sound shocking when you never leave downtown Toronto, Ottawa, or Hamilton, but it’s already happening in hundreds of small Ontario towns.
On this front, there is an easy way for Ontario to move forward that does not require arguments, the threat of lawsuits, or aggressive legislation – all hallmarks of past discussions on this front. Instead, it’s an easy road where all sides negotiate in good faith and the government decides to treat Ontario residents like adults and leave behind what remains of the Prohibition movement of the last century.
https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/heres-how-the-ford-government-can-put-beer-in-corner-stores Doug Ford wants beer and wine in corner shops, here’s how
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