Ontario convenience stores in 20 cities are petitioning Queen's Park to be allowed to sell beer and wine in their stores. The Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) has collected 112,500 names from more than 200 communities.
Many communities that do not have provincially-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) stores are usually out of luck when it comes to purchasing a bottle of wine or a case of beer. This is because there isn’t much competition in the province of Ontario due to the government having a near monopoly in the alcohol market.
The battle to privatize liquor sales in the province persists as the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OSCA) is petitioning Queen’s Park to permit them to sell beer and wine. The group is presenting 112,500 names from 200 communities in 20 cities across the province to the Ontario Legislature, according to a press release.
“The alcohol retailing system in Ontario was designed in 1927 - 85 years ago - and hasn't fundamentally changed. But Ontarians are now speaking loud and clear: It's time we moved the discussion forward on modernizing alcohol retailing in Ontario to include convenience stores," said Dave Bryans, CEO of the OSCA, at a press conference Tuesday.
In the 1980s, Liberal Premier David Peterson told Ontarians that he would allow convenience stores to sell beer and wine. Unfortunately for many, the promise never came to fruition and the present Dalton McGuinty government has not indicated it will change the existing system.
Joanne McMurchy, a former health care worker and teacher and owner of the Vanessa General Store in Vanessa, Ontario, said she has received constant complaints from customers about not having the opportunity like many others across Canada to pick up beer or wine at a grocery store.
“Our store is one of the central places in our community and people come here to buy everything from food to hardware, yet they have to drive 20 minutes to get a bottle of wine for dinner. They keep telling me it's time for change,” explained McMurchy.
This prompted McMurchy to launch a petition and within four weeks she generated more than 100,000 signatures that will encourage all three provincial parties – New Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives – to modernize the province’s alcohol retail system.
The petition hasn’t ended as people can still sign by going to freeourbeer.ca and view the initiative and the list of cities participating in this endeavour.
Are convenience stores ready for such a task? Steve Tennant, vice-president of Hasty Market Corporation, says yes. He told CBC News that his organization has underwent mystery shops and commissioned studies and found that convenience stores do a much better job of asking for identification.
The OSCA represents approximately 7,500 of the more than 11,000 convenience stores in the province.