Tories say it's time Ontario considered selling booze in corner stores
Patrons line up to get into an LCBO outlet as others leave in Mississauga, Ont., Monday, Dec. 31, 2007. (J.P. Moczulski / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, August 8, 2012 3:11PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 10, 2012 4:42PM EDT
TORONTO -- The Conservatives called on the Liberal government Wednesday to halt a planned expansion of Liquor Control Board of Ontario outlets and let convenience stores start selling beer and wine, ideas Premier Dalton McGuinty flatly rejected.
It's time Ontario updated its antiquated liquor laws from the 1930s and considered selling beer and wine around the clock in convenience stores, said Progressive Conservative Peter Shurman.
"We haven't sat down in caucus and said, 'Should we sell booze 24 hours a day,' but at the end of the day you're looking at convenience stores as an option," Shurman told reporters.
"I haven't said we'll jump in and do that on Day 1 of a (Tory Leader Tim) Hudak government, but I am saying don't dismiss it out of hand."
McGuinty did reject the Tory proposal and said the Liberals feel Ontario is a safer place if liquor sales are done by the government-owned LCBO.
"We believe it's a system that enables us to provide greatest guarantee to moms and dads that when a 16-year-old or 17-year-old shows up to buy beer or some liquor, that we have the necessary measures in place to ferret them out and deny them access to alcoholic beverages," said McGuinty.
"So that's the choice we're making. We think it's safe, we think it's secure."
The Ontario Convenience Stores' Association submitted a petition last month with over 112,000 signatures calling on the government to allow them to sell beer and wine.
The Tories said the LCBO's plans to spend $100 million over the next two years to build about 70 new stores should be cancelled, but insisted they were not talking about selling off the agency that turned over $1.6 billion to the government last year.
"I want to take a look at what happens when you expand the sale of beer and wine in private enterprise not only to the return, but to the competitive aspects that create jobs and provide for a wider range of products," said Shurman.
"I can tell you as far as liquor distribution is concerned, we're talking about expanding the retail chain. That's all we're talking about."
Former Liberal premier David Peterson promised to allow corner stores to sell beer and wine in the 1980s, but it never happened.
The New Democrats have consistently opposed the idea.
Various Tory and Liberal governments in Ontario have toyed with the idea of selling off part or all of the LCBO, but none has ever followed through with the idea.
The Conservatives said they want to review more than 600 provincial agencies, boards and commissions, including the LCBO, to see if each is still needed.
"We need to ensure the government focuses on core public services and gets out of other areas, and the sale and distribution of alcohol needs to be part of that discussion," said Shurman.
The LCBO said there is a solid business case for spending $100 million over the next two years to open or expand 70 stores.
"No major capital investment is made unless the LCBO is sure that it will get a 12 per cent return on its investment," said LCBO spokeswoman Julie Rosenberg.
"LCBO analysis estimates those new stores will have an economic spin off benefit of about $120 million and generate about 740 direct and indirect jobs."