The Beer Store has launched an ad campaign attacking the Ford government’s efforts to alter a legal agreement governing where beer and wine can be sold in Ontario, just days after the union for Beer Store employees launched similar ads.
Canadian curler and Beer Store manager Glenn Howard is featured in the ads and claims the Ford government’s changes would cause higher alcohol prices, allow for easier access to alcohol for minors, and lead to 7,000 Beer Store employees losing their jobs.
Since last year’s election campaign, Premier Doug Ford has reiterated his intentions to lower alcohol prices and liberalize alcohol laws in Ontario, with corner store sales being one of the key promises.
The current framework for where alcohol can be sold in Ontario was signed in 2015 by the previous Liberal government.
The 10-year agreement required The Beer Store to freeze prices for a year and invest $100 million in store upgrades. It also allowed for some alcohol sales in grocery stores, albeit with restrictions on sale hours and case sizes.
There is a possibility of penalties for breaking the agreement in order to expand where alcohol can be sold, though the exact cost is unclear.
While the Ford government is currently in negotiations with The Beer Store, the company has opted to go on the attack with the ad campaign.
WATCH: The Beer Store has launched an ad campaign against the Ford Government. Matthew Bingley reports.
“There’s been a lot of talk lately about putting beer in corner stores but not enough facts about what that will mean,” Howard says in one of the ads.
“High taxes drive our beer prices up. Selling beer in corner stores won’t change that. The Beer Store’s efficient distribution system helps keep prices down. I’m proud to say when it comes to selling and distributing beer, The Beer Store does it best,” he says in another ad.
There are a total of five 30-second radio ads by Howard and one 30-second TV commercial.
LISTEN: One of the radio ads being used in the campaign (The Beer Store)
Most radio ads are expected to hit the airwaves Monday and the TV commercial is expected to air beginning on Tuesday, all in the lead-up to the Victoria Day long weekend. Some radio ads have already begun airing.
The ads are paid for by Canada’s National Brewers, a group that previously praised the Ford government’s move to scrap a new beer tax increase in Ontario.
On Friday, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada Local 12R24, the union representing Beer Store employees, launched its own ad campaign “to raise public awareness about the high costs to beer lovers.”
The union claims, like in the Beer Store ads, that 7,000 employees would lose their jobs from Ford’s policies and that high taxes are at the root of expensive alcohol in the province, not the distribution method.
LISTEN: Alan Carters speaks with Beer Store manager Glenn Howard
In Ontario, beer tax rates vary depending on the type of brewery and beer. The highest basic beer tax amounts to 89.74 cents per litre for non-draft beer made by Ontario manufacturers, while the lowest is 33.41 cents per litre for draft beer made by Ontario brewpubs.
In an interview with Global News on Sunday, Ken Hughes, the province’s special adviser for the Beverage Alcohol Review, said that high alcohol taxes are just “one small factor in a much more complicated project.”
High beer costs, Hughes said, are a result of “a number of factors including the model by which beer is distributed in Ontario.”
When asked if the government is considering lowering beer taxes in a bid to lower prices, Hughes said that is not currently being looked at.
In response to inquiries regarding ad campaigns, Robert Gibson, the press secretary for Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, told Global News that the claims surrounding the costs associated with the liberalization of the laws are “ridiculous.”
“It would be premature and irresponsible to speculate or make assumptions about the results of our ongoing consultations and discussions,” Gibson said. “By expanding choice and convenience for Ontario consumers, we are also expanding opportunities for small businesses across the province. Local store owners, brewers and consumers all stand to benefit from an expanded market.”
Gibson added that they are also carefully analyzing any impact that expanded alcohol sales could have on the “safety and health of our communities” and impaired driving rates.
WATCH (November 2018): Doug Ford says government moving forward with extended LCBO, Beer Store hours
—With files from Alan Carter and Matthew Bingley