The sale of beer, wine and spirits in corner stores and supermarkets would give Ontarians more freedom of choice, but not necessarily lower prices, says Tory Leader Tim Hudak.
Hudak told reporters Tuesday a Progressive Conservative government would “end the LCBO and Beer Store monopolies” without forgoing the revenue from hefty provincial taxes.
“Let’s let the private sector into the alcohol business, let’s have some more competition,” he told reporters outside an LCBO outlet in Toronto’s Liberty Village that refused to let him hold his news conference inside.
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In 1985, then Liberal premier David Peterson promised beer and wine in corner stores but could not get the measure passed through the legislature. In 1995, then Tory premier Mike Harris pledged to sell the LCBO before backing off due to the billions in annual proceeds.
Last year, the LCBO contributed about $1.6-billion to provincial coffers.
Hudak addressed social concerns that some — like MADD Canada — might have with easier accessibility to booze, by noting there aren’t “riots in the streets” in other more liberal jurisdictions.
The Beer Store’s Jeff Newton said while consumers assume such changes would mean lower prices, Ontario’s high tax rates on alcohol prevent that.
“Their assumption is automatically that means prices are going down based on their experience from shopping in the corner store … in Florida or Buffalo,” he said.
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MADD Canada, which crusades against drunk-driving, fears dire consequences if booze is easier to obtain.
“We have always been opposed to it simply because the more availability there is to alcohol, the more the consumption and the higher the risk of alcohol-related harm,” said MADD’s Carolyn Swinson.