Premier Doug Ford during media conference in Etobicoke. May 24, 2024. (Screenshot of streamed event)Premier Doug Ford during media conference in Etobicoke. May 24, 2024. (Screenshot of streamed event)

Ford announces rollout of expanded alcohol sales

Just after Labour Day weekend, convenience stores across Ontario will be allowed to sell beer and wine.

The Ford government has announced plans for a phased rollout to allow the sale of alcohol at corner stores, grocery stores, and big-box stores, more than a year ahead of schedule.

A media conference was held in Etobicoke on Friday.

“In the coming weeks and months, people in Ontario, like many Canadians across the country, will have the option to responsibly and conveniently purchase a case of beer or a bottle of wine on their way up to the cottage or to a summer barbecue, all while having even more opportunity to support local Ontario breweries and wineries,” said Premier Doug Ford.

Beginning August 1, up to 450 grocery stores that currently licensed to sell beer, cider or wine will also be eligible to sell ready-to-drink beverages such as coolers or seltzers. Eligible grocery stores will also be able to offer large-pack sizes, like the 30-pack, which is popular in Quebec.

Other "milestone" dates highlighted by the province are listed below:

- After September 5, all eligible convenience stores can sell beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages.

- After October 31, all eligible grocery and big-box stores will be able to sell beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink beverages, including in large pack sizes. 

As part of an agreement, the province will provide The Beer Store with $225 million "to make the necessary investments over the next 19 months to support a stable transition."

"But it's not going directly to The Beer Store," Ford said when asked about the use of taxpayer dollars. "Where it's going is to make sure that we protect The Beer Store employees, to make sure they know they're going to be taken care of. We're going to audit every single penny to make sure it's going in the right place."

Ford also said the investment would be used to create thousands of jobs.

In December 2023, the provincial government said the expansion would take place in 2026, in order to fulfill a campaign promise made in 2018.

During Friday's announcement, Ford also referenced the active role The Beer Store and LCBO will play in this expansion.

"Spirits like vodka, gin, and whisky will continue to be sold at the LCBO," he said. "The Beer Store will remain active with the distribution, recycling, and as a valued retailer."

The LCBO will also continue to operate as a wholesaler to all grocery and convenience stores.

“As we launch this new marketplace, we will continue to meet, consult, and work closely with industry partners, local beverage alcohol producers, and other stakeholders,” said Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy.

As previously announced, the provincial government will provide an additional $10 million over five years to support social responsibility and public health efforts to ensure alcohol is consumed safely.

The Canadian Public Health Association condemned the Ontario government's announcement on Friday.

"This decision is alarming in light of the extensive evidence on the public health risks associated with increased alcohol availability," read a media release. "It comes from a Premier who made light of those risks in his ‘buck-a-beer’ election campaign, and who has consistently favoured the interests of the alcohol, vaping, and convenience store industries over the health and well-being of Ontarians."

The organization noted concerns related to increased alcohol consumption, increased instances of impaired driving, youth exposure, and the economic impact on the health care system due to alcohol-related diseases and injuries.

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