Premier Doug Ford has confirmed that he met with a top executive of convenience store chain 7-Eleven during a pre-pandemic trade mission in the United States.
The revelation comes as the company is applying for a license to serve alcohol in 61 of its Ontario stores.
The meeting took place in Irving, Texas on February 10, 2020, and was not listed on the Premier’s public itinerary for the day.
“We were in Texas and I’ll meet with all sorts of different companies,” said Ford. “I had an opportunity to meet with 7-Eleven. They want to expand here in Ontario, right across Canada. I encourage 7-Eleven, please, come and expand here in Ontario. It’s a great company.”
Ford did not reveal whether his discussions with the company’s Chief Operating Officer touched on the topic of serving alcohol, but made it clear that expanding access to liquor sales is among his government’s priorities.
“Our ultimate goal when I got elected is to have more convenience and choice for the people. If they want to go pick up a six-pack somewhere, that would be great,” Ford said.
“I think eventually we have to be the same as everyone else in North America. You go into a store, a big box store, and buy a case of beer if you want rather than making two, three stops. Eventually, we have to get to that point.”
In a statement to CityNews earlier this week, a 7-Eleven spokesperson said the company is “excited” by the province’s plans to extend the sale of beer and wine to convenience stores and is preparing for the opportunity to “showcase Ontario wine and craft beer products.”
The statement added that the company plans to serve alcohol during limited hours in “designated consumption areas.”
While the Ford government moves to expand alcohol sales, the idea is not sitting well with the leader of the Opposition.
“7-Eleven’s aren’t restaurants. How do they qualify for a restaurant license when they’re not actually restaurants?” said Andrea Horwath. “It’s very troubling to think that the government, that the Premier would even entertain the idea of people going to a 7-Eleven, gassing up their car, popping in for a beer and then hitting the road. The whole thing is just ridiculous and I strongly urge the Premier to back away from this absolutely wrong-headed and dangerous plan.”
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will ultimately decide whether to approve liquor licenses for the 61 locations across Ontario.
Several of the stores that have applied for licenses are within the GTHA, with 14 in Toronto alone. Other locations include Ajax, Brampton, Mississauga, Etobicoke, Hamilton and Guelph.