Provincial government moves to end contract with The Beer Store

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has introduced legislation to terminate the provincial government’s agreement with The Beer Store.

The legislation, if approved, would expand alcohol sales to corner, big-box and more grocery stores but could end up costing taxpayers millions should it provoke a legal battle.

“The unfair agreement with the Beer Store puts the interests of three large global brewers ahead of Ontario consumers, taxpayers and small businesses. It’s a bad deal for people in Ontario who want more choice and convenience, and it’s deeply unfair to businesses who want to compete in this sector,” Fedeli said in a media release.

“We’re committed to increasing choice, convenience and fairness for consumers and businesses by introducing legislation to end the decades-old near-monopoly on beer sales,” added Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott in a social media post.

On Monday (May 27), the government released a report from special advisor Ken Hughes that  “details the inconvenience and unfairness of the current system for everyday Ontario consumers, and identified the agreement with the Beer Store and its private owners as the primary obstacle to achieving a more fair and convenient alcohol retail system in Ontario.”

The press release notes that the Province looks forward to continuing discussions with the Beer Store with the goal of reaching a mutually agreeable amendment that will improve choice and convenience.

“Many of the current challenges with alcohol retail in Ontario stem from the 2015 Master Framework Agreement signed by the previous government, the Beer Store and the three large global brewers who own it,” Hughes said.

“Because of it, many small businesses are shut out of alcohol retail, and the economic benefits that could come from an expanded market.”

“It’s my hope the multinational brewers who own the Beer Store will put the interest of their customers and Ontarians first and join us as we build a modern, equitable system that opens up more places to buy beer while we create a model that also allows small businesses to grow and create jobs,” added Fedeli.

The United Food and Commercial Workers local representing Beer Store employees has concluded that the government’s decision could cost thousands of jobs.

“We will fight this government and this premier to keep our jobs and to save the taxpayers the billions Ford is willing to pay to put beer in corner stores,” president John Nock said in a statement.

The Beer Store is owned and controlled primarily by three large multinational corporations – Molson owns 51 per cent, Labatt owns 45 per cent and Sleeman owns 4 per cent.

“Ontario has fewer stores that can sell alcohol than any other province when compared against population size. There are over 8,000 retail stores in Quebec selling alcohol, but fewer than 3,000 in Ontario,” reads a media release from the Province.

“A recent report by the Retail Council of Canada suggested that simply by increasing the number of alcohol retailers to the national average, Ontario would see 9,100 jobs created. It also stated that before taxes are considered, the prices of popular 24 packs of beer in Ontario are still 8.3 per cent higher than in Quebec.”

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