Brad Duguid wouldn’t confirm a report in the Toronto Star that the spring budget will include changes to the way beer and wine is sold in Ontario. But he didn’t deny it, either.
"I think Ontarians would look forward to improved customer experience with their ability to purchase beer and wine," Duguid said at a news conference that was set to focus on the jobless rate.
Craft brewers and alcohol customers alike have called for the province to shakeup the retail landscape, in which The Beer Store is the only place where beer can be sold in bulk and the LCBO is the main distributor of wine and liquor.
Duguid added that he often thinks about the issue when he buys beer.
“If I could do it more conveniently I would welcome that opportunity,” he said.
The province has been reviewing how The Beer Store and the LCBO operate and has hinted at upcoming changes.
While Premier Kathleen Wynne has ruled out selling beer at corner stores — as is the practice in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador — she hasn’t said anything about selling beer and wine at supermarkets.
But while no clear plan was announced today, it's clear some will oppose the changes.
NDP house leader Gilles Bisson was quick to denounce the Liberals' thinking.
“We have a very robust system in this province,” Bisson said.
“The LCBO and our beer stores … do an excellent job.”
Wynne’s government wouldn’t be the first to promise alcohol sales in supermarkets. Liberal premier David Peterson promised nearly 30 years ago, as did PC premier Mike Harris.
The Beer Store, owned by three multi-national brewing giants, has already offered up some changes by letting craft brewers sell more product there and have a minority ownership stake. Craft brewers dismissed that move as "optics" and called on the government to push for greater change in the industry.