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Opposition parties decry beer and wine tweets by Ontario PC MPPs

The Progressive Conservatives latest informal Twitter campaign is being met with mockery in some corners of the internet.

NDP, Green Party MPPs say unofficial campaign shows 'misguided priorities'

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, stack cases of beer during a photo opportunity at a brewery in Toronto. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

The Progressive Conservatives latest informal Twitter campaign is being met with mockery in some corners of the internet.

PC MPPs spent the weekend tweeting support for expanding beer and wine sales to convenience stores, a tactic the government has previously used to push messaging on other issues like the carbon tax. 

While the flurry of tweets racked up likes from supporters, other Twitter users were not exactly impressed given the focus on alcohol sales comes amid government cuts to public services like education and public health. 

The opposition parties called the co-ordinated campaign "misguided" and "cynical," and said it appears to be falling flat with some voters. 

The tweets include photos of MPPs posing in casual clothes as they talk to shop keepers, while others include videos of MPPs addressing viewers as they relax outside of the Ontario legislature.

Even Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted her support, but she did not include a photo of herself.

NDP and Green Party MPPs say the tweets are another example of the government prioritizing populist measures over public services.

The campaign follows legislation introduced Monday that would allow the province to rip up a 10-year contract with The Beer Store that was signed by the previous Liberal government. The deal permitted an expansion of beer and wine sales to hundreds of grocery stores but also gave a coalition of big brewers considerable control over the rollout. 

To put beer and wine in corner stores, the province has to break an agreement signed with Beer Store co-owners Molson, Labatt and Sleeman. The Beer Store has already indicated it plans to file a legal challenge over the termination. 

Ontario NDP finance critic Sandy Shaw called the campaign "unfortunate" and pointed to a significant number of critical replies coming from Twitter users.

"It looks like a gimmick. It's not a good look on them to be talking about beer and wine in corner stores when everyday Ontarians have other concerns," Shaw said.

The campaign sends a "chilling signal" to investors that the province doesn't respect contracts, she continued.

"Investors want stability and predictability and those two words do not describe this government at all," she said.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the unofficial "beer campaign" shows the provincial government is failing to see the real priorities of Ontario people.

"This is just cynical politics at its worst," he said. "The Ford government is trying to change the channel from their poll numbers that are going down due to all the cuts, and they are trying to deliver immediate gratification through expanded beers sales, putting the province at legal risk and financial risk of breaking up a contract."

"I would say it's misguided priorities."

Schreiner said the premier did not campaign on ripping up the contract and that the government could either renegotiate the contract or wait until it expires.

"It's putting Ontario's reputation at risk that it's not a province that respects the rule of law or a province where a contract is not worth the paper that it's written on," he said.

As for the government itself, Ivana Yelich, spokesperson for the premier's office, said in a statement that the PCs made a campaign promise to bring "more choice" to people in Ontario.

"The fact that the government is moving ahead with its plan to expand the sale of beer and wine for Ontario consumers should come as no surprise to anyone," Yelich said.

Yelich also defended the use of tweets to promote government plans even though not all constituents have Twitter accounts.

"In this digital age, it's not uncommon for elected officials to use social media to speak directly to their constituents," she said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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