The loosening of the sale of alcohol in Ontario has received an important endorsement from Canada’s national competition watchdog.
In media reports, Competition Commissioner Matthew Boswell sent an open letter to provincial Finance Minister Rod Phillips that looked at recommendations from a special adviser on alcohol hired by the province, said proposed measures to expand liquor sales to more stores and extend serving options in restaurants will contribute to a more robust alcohol market in the province.
“While acknowledging the need to balance policy concerns such as public health and safety with competition, I believe a less restrictive system that allows more retailers to compete on price can offer Ontarians greater convenience and access to a wider selection of products, particularly for those who live in rural and remote communities,” Boswell wrote.
Alcohol reform has been something Premier Doug Ford has spoken about since the dawn of his election campaign. He pledged to make beer and wine available in corner stores, big box stores and more grocery stores and it is happening.
Broader measures to overhaul Ontario’s tightly controlled alcohol market were then spelled out in the government’s first budget, unveiled in April.
The fiscal plan outlined measures to extend hours during which licensed venues could serve booze, let municipalities establish rules about where booze can be consumed in public, and loosened rules around advertising “happy hour” promotions.
The Tories have also introduced legislation to toss a 10-year agreement with The Beer Store that was signed by the previous Liberal government and limited the number of stores that can sell alcohol.
In early June, the Tories announced they would allow the sale of beer, wine and cider in almost 300 more stores — a combination of LCBO agency stores and grocery stores — as part of their push to loosen alcohol sales.
Under the previous system, the number of approved stores was capped at 450, all that has now changed.
The Competition Commissioner also referred to the pricing scheme for bars and restaurants, which he said must purchase booze at market prices and pass the cost on to patrons in order to turn a profit. -CINEWS