The Ontario government won’t be allowing convenience stores to sell beer and wine, despite a renewed push from industry to open up liquor sales in the province.
Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters Tuesday that her government will not be allowing convenience stores to sell beer and wine, though the Liberals will be expanding the availability of Ontario-made vintages and brews in specialty stores.
"We have a terrific distribution network and we're going to continue to work with the LCBO to increase that distribution network," Wynne told reporters.
The premier’s remarks came just a few hours before a group of retailers held a news conference in which they pledged to hold 30 per cent of their beverage retail shelf space for Ontario-made beers and wines.
"Our pledge will give Ontario wine and craft beer producers enormous opportunities to sell and showcase their products right in the communities where they are produced and even beyond," said Dave Bryans, of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, during the afternoon news conference at Queen’s Park.
Bryans said that retailers believe it is not a question of if, but when, Ontario will end up opening up the sales of beer and wine.
"This is what the future holds when Ontario decides to modernize its alcohol-retailing system," he said.
"When this happens, the hard-working Ontario craft brewers, the Ontario grape-growers and the wineries will be the first to benefit, thanks to the commitment we’re making here today."
The group of retailers involved in the pledge include 7-Eleven Canada, Mac’s Convenience, Petro-Canada, Hasty Market, Rabba Fine Foods, Daisy Mart and Winks, among others.
Opposition divided on expanding beer, wine sales
At Queen’s Park, the Progressive Conservatives have released a white paper calling for the province to allow the sale of beer and wine in private retail outlets.
But the New Democrats say they support the government’s position that the current system works well, particularly when it comes to restricting minors’ access to alcohol.
"You look at LCBO stores you have great choice of products, you've got affordability and it's really a service that's responsible in regards to how you sell alcohol," NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said.
"We have to take our responsibility when it comes to alcohol to make sure that only those people of age are able to buy it."
Wynne also said Tuesday that her government believes the LCBO is better able to prevent minors from purchasing alcohol than private stores are.
"This is an issue that has two schools of thought on it, and I'm quite sure right now my constituency office is getting calls on both sides of this issue," she said.
That same divide in public opinion was evident on Twitter, among CBC readers responding to the news about the convenience stores’ push to sell beer and wine: