New report recommends selling hard liquor alongside beer and wine in corner stores
Ontario Chamber of Commerce also calling for expanded online sales options
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) is recommending a host of changes it says will "modernize" the sale of alcohol in the province — including expanding hard liquor sales into convenience and corner stores.
The recommendations, which were released in a new report Monday morning, would help "foster a more equitable and competitive beverage alcohol landscape" in Ontario, the chamber says.
The way alcohol is sold in the province is changing significantly. The Progressive Conservative government has laid the groundwork to allow all grocery and convenience stores in Ontario to sell beer and wine.
Ashley Challinor, vice president of policy with the chamber of commerce, told CBC News that allowing spirits in corner stores alongside beer and wine would let people buy their favourite drinks in a more convenient way.
"These things are good for consumers but they're also good for producers who are looking to expand their market access," Challinor said.
In a statement, Minister of Finance Rod Phillips thanked the chamber for its report — but did not say if the province planned to adopt any of its recommendations.
"Our government supports a responsible approach to alcohol sales and we look forward to continuing discussions with stakeholders to deliver choice and fairness for Ontarians, and new opportunities for business," he said in an email.
On top of easier access to liquor, the chamber is calling on the province to amend the Liquor Licence Act to allow alcohol producers to sell their products through online marketplaces using third parties to process payments — which it says would let businesses create a more robust "alcohol e-commerce sector."
Other recommendations include:
- Creating a new liquor licence that would allow for private, independent wine stores.
- Lowering taxes on Ontario wines.
- Allowing for Ontario spirit and craft beer producers with a retail store to sell products at farmers' markets.
- Giving customers more e-commerce and home delivery options.
- Removing inter-provincial trade barriers to allow producers to sell to other "willing" provinces.
As the government has touted the expansion of alcohol sales options in the province, health providers have raised concerns about the impact it could have on people struggling with addiction.
A recent report from Toronto's medical officer of health warned the soon-to-be implemented changes could trigger new social and health care problems for the city, and prescribed more consultation with municipalities before the new measures are put in place.
A new study from researchers in Ottawa found that more young people in Ontario — especially young women — are ending up in hospital emergency departments because of excessive alcohol consumption.
Challinor said it is "very important" to engage with the public health community on expansion, and the OCC wants governments to "engage in reform in a responsible manner."
In its report, the chamber said the province should partner with "relevant stakeholders" like the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Public Health Association to develop comprehensive public education campaigns that focus on increasing awareness of health risks.
Challinor said safety should be top of mind for the province's alcohol producers.
"They want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem and are equally invested in ensuring Ontarians consume alcohol responsibly," she said.