Changes coming for alcohol sales in Ontario

Dec 27, 2023

Over the last months, Premier Doug Ford’s government has been carrying out closed-door consultations with alcohol industry leaders in order to bring change to alcohol sale regulations in Ontario. While the primary goal of the alcohol reforms is to fulfill Ford’s 2018 campaign promise to allow convenience stores to sell beer and wine, according to a source interviewed by The Globe and Mail, the government will also unveil a plan to expand the places where alcohol is sold, including allowing beer in corner stores.

Furthermore, the Ford government will also confirm whether it intends to renew its Master Framework Agreement (MFA) signed in 2015 that governs the way alcohol can be sold in the province.

As part of MFA, the Beer Store was given the exclusive rights to sell beer in 12 and 24-packs, and the agreement also prevents Ontario convenience stores from selling alcohol.

“We are going to keep our promise to make sure that we have convenience and selection across the province like you see across the entire world,” Ford said at a news conference earlier in Nov. “But we want to be fair and we are going to be continuing to negotiate with the Beer Store.”

After Ford was elected, the Progressive Conservative Party had already made attempts to break MFA, which were unsuccessful since violating the agreement would cost the province up to $1-billion in compensation.

“Ontario has made significant progress towards expanding choice and convenience of alcohol – from expanding the sale of beverage alcohol to hundreds of new points of sale across Ontario to permanently allowing more than 18,000 restaurants and bars to include alcohol with food as part of a takeout and delivery order,” said Emily Hogeveen, a spokesperson for Ontario’s minister of finance, in a released statement.

Earlier this year, The Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) raised concerns regarding the possible harms associated with increasing access points to alcohol in the province, noting “inevitable consequences of illnesses, deaths and social harms to our citizens that will follow with increased sales and consumption of alcohol in Ontario” in a released statement.

“There’s lots and lots of research that tells us that as consumption of alcohol goes up, there are so many related harms that could happen,” John Atkinson, the OHPA’s executive director, said in an interview with CTV News. “These kinds of harms include everything from increases in chronic disease like cancer, because alcohol is a known carcinogen, [and] increases in streets and domestic violence, road crashes, thefts.”

Currently, Quebec and Newfoundland allow the sale of beer at convenience stores. “Preventing a monopoly on distribution is in the best interest of Ontarians and convenience retailers across the province,” said the Convenience Industry Council of Canada in a released statement. “All of the major wholesale distributors in Ontario should be allowed to distribute alcohol from manufacturers to convenience store locations.”