'Ontario is mature enough for this change': Premier Ford revisits allowing alcohol sales at convenience stores

Premier Doug Ford says he remains committed to bringing beer and wine to convenience stores across the province

For Ontarians that have been holding onto hope of seeing wine and beer for sale at convenience stores following a 2018 campaign pledge by Premier Doug Ford, their dream might be coming true.

The Ontario premier shed a fresh glimmer of hope on that promise during a press release on Monday.

When asked by a reporter during an unrelated press briefing whether the premier has bent on the promise he made to the public five years ago, Ford was quick to issue a rebuttal.

"We're going to fulfill that promise — we have extended it tremendously since we have been in office," said Ford.

The origin of Ontario consumers being able to stock up on boozy beverages at their nearest convenience store was a pledge Ford made during his first provincial election campaign.

"It is time to acknowledge that Ontario is mature enough for this change and ready to join other jurisdictions in making life a little more convenient," Ford had said in a pre-Victoria Day weekend statement during 2018.

This pledge could see Ontario's Progressive Conservatives allowing the sales of beer, wine, cider and coolers to be sold in corner stores, box stores and any grocery store across the province.

But when will this actually go through?

"As soon as possible," the premier said, provided the stores meet requirements from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

Despite the amount of time that has passed since the promise, Ford told reporters Monday that his government has expanded alcohol sales "tremendously" during his time in office.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw the provincial government allowing restaurants to sell alcohol with takeout and delivery orders — a measure that has since been made permanent. A 7-Eleven in Leamington was also successful at applying for a liquor licence.

Part of the challenges Ford says he faces is a deal known as the Master Framework Agreement, which was brokered by the Liberal government in 2015 valid through 2026, attached with a clause resulting in heavy financial penalties if broken.

The agreement, made between three major brewing corporations (Labatt, Molson, and Sleeman), the Beer Store, and the Province of Ontario, states that the province would ensure that beer is not authorized for sale or distribution in Ontario except for by the Beer Store, the LCBO, stores operated by either, breweries, or duty-free stores.

“A lot of people are of the misunderstanding that The Beer Stores are owned by the government. They aren't. They're owned by three massive beer companies — foreign may I add — foreign beer companies, and I just don't think that monopoly’s right,” said Ford.

Ford said he remains committed to bringing beer and wine to Ontario convenience stores.

"We need to have convenience for the consumer, and we will strike a deal with the beer stores," said Ford.

Timing of promise has social media users divided

It has many social media users sharing that there are other issues more pressing that Ford's government should be addressing.

Others pointed out this is not Ford's first failed alcohol-related promise, pointing to his "buck-a-beer" pledge.

Others are worried that this could make alcohol readily available and could lead to increased consumption and underage drinking.

Some others went so far as to say that Ontario has prohibition-style sale of alcohol.