July 31, 2018 9:21 am

Is Ontario planning a mix of public, private retail cannabis stores?

A woman walks into a marijuana dispensary on Granville Street on June 20, 2018, in Vancouver.

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Hiring is proceeding as planned for a rollout of 40 public-sector Ontario cannabis stores, according to a document shown to Global News.

The government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store told the personnel agency Randstad to keep hiring for cannabis retail positions in government stores after a story appeared in the Globe and Mail last Thursday, saying that Ontario had opted to let the private sector sell marijuana, the document shows.

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Randstad has been contracted to hire retail workers for cannabis stores in 27 different Ontario communities.

Randstad did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The Ontario Cannabis Store forwarded questions to the province’s finance ministry, which would not comment about the government’s plans for cannabis retail.

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Ontario’s PC government hasn’t made a formal announcement about its plans for marijuana sales, though the facts in the Globe story haven’t been publicly disputed.

A mixed public-private model would give Ontario a marijuana retail system much like British Columbia’s.

It would also open the Ontario cannabis market to the private sector, while not wasting the money that has been spent up to this point in hiring, and leasing and renovating physical stores, for a public-sector system. Some 23 people say in their Linkedin profiles that they are store managers at the OCS, though only four store locations have been publicly announced.

Recreational marijuana will be legal across Canada on Oct. 17.

READ MORE: Doug Ford gives hazy details for Ontario PC Party plan on marijuana

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The previous Liberal government had announced a completely public-sector system of cannabis sales, with stores staffed by members of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union.

If Ontario does open public-sector stores, they must be staffed with OPSEU members, according to a deal signed last year.

“It wouldn’t be my first choice — I’d like them all public — but they have hybrid systems elsewhere,” says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “B.C. has had a hybrid alcohol model for quite some time, and they seem to compete and make each other do a little better.”

“It wouldn’t be the end of the world, put it that way.”

READ MORE: Canada will allow pot, but Facebook isn’t allowing ads talking about it

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