Allow liquor sales at corner stores, Hudak urges
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak says that if elected premier, he would allow beer, wine and spirits to be sold at corner stores and is open to the idea of a full sell-off of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
Hudak, speaking to reporters Tuesday outside an LCBO store in Toronto’s Liberty Village neighbourhood, said he wouldn’t have the government abandon the booze business entirely, but would sell part of the LCBO or some of its stores, to the private sector.
Hudak said other provinces, including Alberta, allow the private sector to sell alcohol.
"So let's let the private sector in. Whether it's grocery stores, corner stores, private retail stores — why can't they sell beer, wine or spirits?" he said.
"It's time to end the LCBO and Beer Store's monopolies."
LCBO generates $1.63B in revenue
But he rejected the notion that selling any part of the LCBO would deprive the province — which is facing a $14.4-billion deficit this year — of much-needed cash. The LCBO brings in $1.63 billion in revenue each year, not including alcohol tax revenue.
"A lot of states and provinces have moved out of the public control of alcohol. They actually found increased choice and increased revenue to the government at the same time," Hudak said.
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan opposes a full sale of the LCBO, but said privatizing portions of it is something future governments should look at.
Hudak's suggestions for the LCBO are among the trial balloons the Tory leader is floating, which also include having the province get out of the gambling business. But they're not official party policy.
His proposal Tuesday comes one day after he suggested the province get out of the operational side of the gambling business, and hand large portions of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation over to the private sector.
Hudak said the province should instead concentrate on providing core services such as health care and education.
Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives have made previous calls to reduce the Ontario government’s control of liquor sales within the province.
Last year, Hudak lamented the loss of "buck-a-beer" sales in Ontario after the minimum price of a 24-pack rose above $24.
With files from Mike Crawley and The Canadian Press