Beer Store Prepared to Battle Doug Ford Over Beer in Corner Stores
No one can accuse the Doug Ford government of not investing a great deal of time and energy into booze.
Controversial cuts to public health might be on the chopping block for now, but the battle for greater access to beer rages on—even if it might be a costly one for a government that purports to value savings above all else.
Recently, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Finance, announced that the province is moving forward to fulfill its commitment to increase "choice, convenience and fairness for alcohol consumers."
The government plans to introduce legislation that would, if passed, terminate the previous government’s agreement with the Beer Store. If the legislation is passed, the government can expand alcohol sales to corner, big-box, and more grocery stores.
The agreement, if breached, could cost the government additional money.
“The unfair agreement with the Beer Store puts the interests of three large global brewers ahead of Ontario consumers, taxpayers and small businesses,” said Fedeli. “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.”
The Beer Store says it's prepared to take action to fight the Ford government's proposal.
“We are currently reviewing the government’s announcement related to the Master Framework Agreement with The Beer Store and are pursuing our legal options," said Ted Moroz, Beer Store president, in a statement.
“The government cannot extinguish our right to damages as outlined in the Master Framework Agreement. It is critical to understand that The Beer Store has, in good faith, based on a legally-negotiated 10-year operating agreement with the Province of Ontario, invested more than $100 million to modernize its stores and to continue to upgrade the consumer experience."
The Beer Store says legal action is possible.
“We have today sent a legal letter to the government and will fight this legislation vigorously through the courts and we remain committed to protecting the 7,000 Ontarians who work at The Beer Store and rely on these jobs to support their families.”
The government argues that the current policies surrounding beer sales are "unfair" to consumers.
“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,” said Ken Hughes, Special Advisor for the Beverage Alcohol Review.
“Because of it, many small businesses are shut out of alcohol retail, and the economic benefits that could come from an expanded market.”
The province said it hopes to come to an agreement with the Beer Store that will effectively modernize alcohol sales in Ontario—a province that only recently allowed select grocers to sell wine, beer and cider in stores.
As of now, the Master Framework Agreement gives the Beer Store the exclusive right to sell 12 and 24 packs in most of their local markets, which means shoppers must buy from the Beer Store if they want to purchase in bulk.
The province says 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.
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