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Ontarians to have greater access to alcohol under new grocery store plan

It’s been a long time coming, and it certainly won’t satisfy everybody, but Ontario’s finance minister, Dwight Duncan, announced today (New Year’s Eve, let us remember) that residents of this province will be able to buy beer and liquor at some grocery stores next year. Not every grocery store, and certainly not in corner convenience stores, but in a few carefully selected grocery stores. It’s a pilot project.

Dwight Duncan is not talking about grocery stores selling beer and liquor. The project involves setting up LCBO outlets in these grocery stores, as has been done at the Loblaws store on Queen’s Quay in Toronto.

The move is a far cry from what some, including former Liberal premier David Peterson promised way back in 1985. In the campaign that ended with his election that year, he promised to make alcoholic beverages available in corner stores, which the people of the province had said they wanted. Once elected, though, he was unable to get the legislation passed to make this happen.

Duncan now says the people of Ontario like the LCBO but want more access. More access, but not too much access, because that would lead to the kind of problems they have in (shudder) Detroit. “Anyone who lives near the border knows what that will look like,” Duncan said. And Ontarians certainly don’t want that, whatever that is.

How convenient will it be? You’ll still have to pay separately, so don’t get the notion that you can grab a bottle or two of wine as you pick up things for tonight’s dinner at the grocery store and pay for it all at the check-out. Millions of people in places like California, to name one place that we are most familiar with, do this every day, but that is not what Duncan sees for Ontario. That would be too convenient, one supposes.  

As for the convenience store owners, they are decidedly in favour of selling alcohol. The Ontario Convenience Stores Association got more than one hundred thousand signatures on a petition last summer, asking for the right to buy and sell beer and wine in corner stores, something that the Conservative party leader, Tim Hudak, says he supports. 

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