Toronto

Ford government wants public feedback on private, corner store alcohol sales

The Ontario government is asking for public feedback on the idea of letting private companies and corner stores sell alcohol.

Ontario government launches online consultations with vow to improve 'customer convenience'

Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government is eyeing more changes to the way alcohol is sold in the province. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

The Ontario government is asking for public feedback on the idea of letting private companies and corner stores sell alcohol.

The Progressive Conservative government said anyone of legal drinking age can weigh in online from now until Feb. 1, 2019.

The government is seeking input on potential rule changes for the sale of beer, wine, cider and spirits. It's also looking at expanding the number and type of stores that can sell those products.

"We are moving forward on the promise to improve customer convenience and choice and enable more opportunities for businesses," said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli in a news release.

The rules for beer sales in Ontario are set out by the master beer framework, a legal agreement between the province and Brewer's Retail (The Beer Store).

The contract, which is in effect until 2025, does not allow for beer to be sold in corner stores, which is a key promise the Ford government made in the Throne Speech. 

To put beer in corner stores, the government will have to renegotiate the deal. 

There's also a chance Ontario will allow private sellers and distributors into the alcohol market, which is currently largely controlled by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), which sold nearly $6 billion worth of booze in 2016-2017 — about a third of which went back to the provincial government.

The government said it will also be asking the community how to maintain safety if alcohol sales are expanded.

The PCs have already dropped the minimum price of a bottle or can of beer to $1 from $1.25, paving the way for the return of buck-a-beer (although few companies are actually brewing it).

The government has also extended the hours for alcohol sales at LCBO, The Beer Store and licensed grocers.

With files from Mike Crawley

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