Amid much hoopla, the Ontario Liberals presented a plan last week that claims to open up sales of beer across the province. However, it’s a plan that does little to offer more competition and choice for consumers.
The new guidelines put even more control in the government’s hands over who gets to sell beer, when they sell it and how much they charge.
Some power has shifted away from the three major foreign brewers that own the Beer Store. Instead, the province will have even more control over the sale of alcohol, adding several unnecessary layers of bureaucracy to the business of beer.
The government was touting the fact that as many as 450 grocery stores will be able to sell beer under this plan. However, that won’t happen for many years since the current plan is for up to 150 grocery stores to carry beer by May 1, 2017. As well, the beer will be sold at urban grocery stores, leaving retailers in small communities left out of the party.
Also left out of the party is anything even resembling competition since the prices will be the same at grocery stores as at the Beer Store. As well, there will be limits on how much beer an individual store can sell, and as is the current case at LCBO outlets, nothing larger than a six-pack will be sold. There’s nothing the government seems to love more than throwing money at consultants for studies, and this plan has that too, with the LCBO conducting a pilot study at 10 stores to gauge how viable the sale of 12-packs would be.
The Liberals squandered the chance for real change in favour of the status quo, and as always it’s the consumer paying the price for greed and shortsightedness.
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