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No plans to sell beer, wine at corner stores: Wynne

The Canadian Press/Ableimages

The Ontario government has no plans to allow the sale of beer and wine in corner stores, premier Kathleen Wynne has confirmed.

“We have a terrific distribution network and we’re going to continue to work with the LCBO to increase that distribution network,” Wynne told reporters Tuesday.

Representatives of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association and major retailers made their case at Queen’s Park Tuesday afternoon, asking to sell products from small craft breweries and local wineries. The Ontario Convenience Stores Association includes some of the province’s largest retailers, including 7-11, Mac’s as well as the retailing arms of Petro-Canada, Imperial Oil and Canadian Tire.

The Liberals say that while they will soon allow LCBO locations in grocery stores, they do not plan to otherwise expand the sale of beer and wine.

“The way our operations are now in place is the way that I intend to be keeping it,” Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa told CityNews.  “We’re expanding that into boutique stores. We’re expanding that into grocery stores. We’re going to improve the network and the accessibility,”

Sousa added that the LCBO has played a pivotal role in expanding the distribution of Ontario craft brew and VQA wines throughout the province.

“We’ve actually catapulted some of these very industries that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the intervention and leadership of the LCBO,” he explained.

The NDP says they support the government’s plan, in part because government-run stores help restrict the sale of alcohol to minors, while the Progressive Conservatives are calling for a study on the expansion of beer and wine sales.

Sousa says the government-run liquor stores and the foreign-owned Beer Store do a good job of keeping minors from buying booze through their policies of social responsibility.

The Progressive Conservatives have released a white paper calling for the expansion of beer and wine sales to privately owned retail outlets.

While there are more than 200 LCBO locations in convenience stores in small communities not able to sustain a full store, Sousa noted that the province will be launching a pilot program to put LCBO Express stores in about 10 grocery stores next year. Precise locations of those stores has not been revealed.

Other provinces, such as Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, already allow private liquor sales.

With files from The Canadian Press