Toronto

Christine Elliott promotes store convicted of tobacco violation in beer and wine tweet

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott promoted a convenience store convicted of selling an electronic cigarette to an underage customer in a tweet calling for expanded beer and wine sales.

Andrew’s Convenience in Aurora, Ont. was convicted of selling an e-cigarette to an underage customer

Ontario Health Minister and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott was among several PC MPPs who called for expanded beer and wine sales on social media this weekend. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott promoted a convenience store convicted of selling an electronic cigarette to an underage customer in a tweet calling for expanded beer and wine sales.

Elliott sent the tweet on June 1 as Progressive Conservative MPPs flooded social media with photos and videos calling for updated alcohol laws.

The informal campaign came as the Ford government attempts to cancel Ontario's contract with The Beer Store, which could pave the way for allowing beer and wine sales in corner stores.

Elliott, who is also Ontario's deputy premier, used an image of Andrew's Convenience in her tweet calling for the changes.

"Ontarians should be able to support local businesses by buying beer and wine from convenience stores like Andrew's Convenience," Elliott said in the tweet.

The Aurora, Ont. store was convicted of violating the Smoke-Free Ontario Act by selling an electronic cigarette to a person under 19 on July 12, 2018.

Twitter user @cityslikr was first to point out the violation.

In a statement to CBC Toronto, Elliott's spokesperson acknowledged the violation, but said the minister was not aware of the conviction when the tweet was posted.

"The owner of Andrew's Convenience, who started his local business in Aurora after immigrating from South Korea, has acknowledged that an employee sold an electronic cigarette to a person who is less than 19 years old," the statement reads.

"The owner paid a $150 fine and has since strengthened the store's protocols and procedures to ensure the safe and responsible sale of tobacco products," Hayley Chazan wrote.

In late May, the Ford government defunded a program called Leave the Pack Behind that encouraged young adults to quit smoking.

Online campaign ridiculed

The Tories' beer and wine campaign has been widely criticized by social media users and opposition parties since it started on the weekend.

Most of the tweets by PC MPPs feature a large number of critical replies that far outpace the number of retweets or likes associated with the tweet — a phenomenon Twitter users call getting "ratioed."

On Monday, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said "beer insiders" are fuelling the online mockery of the social media blitz.

Fedeli says the multinationals that own The Beer Store are behind the negative feedback as they fight to protect the deal.

The PCs launched a similar campaign earlier this year that saw politicians posing at gas pumps in a bid to criticize the federal carbon tax.

Cancelling The Beer Store deal

Premier Doug Ford has indicated he plans to allow beer and wine sales in corner stores, but doing so will require breaking a contract signed between The Beer Store and the previous Liberal government, which runs until 2025.

The Beer Store — which is predominantly owned by Molson, Labatt and Sleeman — has been called a monopoly by Fedeli.

The store currently controls around two-thirds of Ontario's $3.6 billion beer market, though that share has dropped since the province expanded beer and wine sales to selected grocery stores.

"There's no place in the world that has a monopoly like the three international beer organizations or companies ... that have artificially increased the cost of beer by over 10 per cent," Ford has said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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