Ontario looks to add hard liquor sales to corner stores

According to the new recommendations contained in the report released by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), the sale of hard liquor should be allowed alongside beer and wine in convenience stores. Moreover, the OCC has recommended expanding online sales options of alcohol. These changes are aimed to “modernize” the sale of alcohol in Ontario, in order to “foster a more equitable and competitive beverage alcohol landscape,” said the OCC.

The report, entitled “Refreshing the Sale of Beverage Alcohol in Ontario,” also suggests that taxes should be reduced on Ontario wines, and that taxes for craft cider producers should be similar to those of craft beer producers.

In her interview with CBC news, Ashley Challinor, vice president of policy with the chamber of commerce, said that placing hard liquor next to beer and wine in corner stores 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,” she said.

During his election campaign last year, Premier Doug Ford had already promised to permit all grocery and convenience stores in Ontario to sell wine and beer. Moreover, the Progressive Conservative government will allow Ontario restaurants, bars, and golf courses, to begin serving alcohol at 9 a.m., seven days a week. The party even promised consultations on a further increase in hours of services and Ontario municipalities will be able to establish rules about consuming alcohol in public spaces, including parks.

The OCC president, and CEO, Rocco Rossi has said that Ontario residents want to see “substantive reforms” to complex alcohol laws and that this could benefit the province if implemented correctly. “The province can unleash the potential of the beverage alcohol sector, support regional economic development, meet the needs of today’s consumer, and generate greater tax revenue to fund the public services on which Ontarians rely,” said Rossi.

In turn, Minister of Finance Rod Phillips had thanked the chamber for its report, but did not say if any of the recommendations would be adopted. “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,” Rossi said in an email to CBC News.

The OCC has also requested the province make changes to the Liquor Licence Act to permit alcohol producers to sell their products online by using third parties to process payments in order to allow them to create a stronger “alcohol e-commerce sector.”

Other recommendations contained in the OCC report include increasing public education campaigns to raise awareness of the risks of long-term alcohol use, eliminating inter-provincial trade barriers to allow producers to sell to other provinces, and implementing a new type of liquor licence that would permit the operation of private, independent wine stores.

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