No beer in Ontario convenience stores, says Kathleen Wynne

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SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- Premier Kathleen Wynne has brews you can use — beer will not be sold in corner stores when reforms come this spring.

“There are changes coming. It’s not whether there will be change, it’s just a matter of what that change will be — so stay tuned,” Wynne told reporters Monday during a campaign-style swing through the Thorncliffe Park pregnancy clinic in her Don Valley West riding.

“We’re not going to have beer in convenience stores. There is change coming however,” she said.

It’s unclear whether that means beer could be sold in supermarkets, such as Loblaws, or big-box retailers like Costco.

“We now have Ed Clark and his commissioners that are looking at the distribution system in the province. They’re looking at the LCBO and as a result of that looking at theBeer Store,” the premier said without elaborating.

When Finance Minister Charles Sousa tables his budget in March, the government will announce a revamp of its relationship with the Beer Store, which is owned by the offshore parent companies of Labatt, Molson, and Sleeman.

Wynne said she wants greater access to consumers for the scores of Ontario-owned craft brewers in the province.

Currently, AB InBev, Belgian parent of Labatt, and U.S.-based MolsonCoors each own 46 per cent of the Beer Store while Japan’s Sapporo, owner of Sleeman, has 8 per cent.

The Beer Store has offered to sell shares to small domestic beer-makers brewers for as little as $100 apiece, but the Ontario Craft Brewers, which represents 50 of them, has officially panned the offer.

Clark, the former TD Bank chair, has told Labatt, Molson, and Sleeman in high-level meetings that the government expects them to fork over some kind of “franchise fee” without raising prices for drinkers.

“Their position is that they can’t afford to absorb a tax,” the Bay Street titan said in November when his panel released a 77-page interim report, entitled “Retain & Gain: Making Ontario’s Assets Work Better for Taxpayers and Consumers.”

“If we do decide to charge a franchise fee of some sort (and they say) they don’t have any room, they’re just right up against the wall here and they don’t have a dollar to give . . . we’re saying, ‘Well, then that means you’re really saying is that this franchise that you have is worthless. Would you then give it up?’” said Clark.

“And then they say they don’t want to, but they don’t want to pay for it. We don’t think that’s a reasonable position. If you really think this thing is valueless, then give it up and we’ll auction it off and see if people would pay something for it.”

 

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