TORONTO – The Progressive Conservative government plans to rip up an agreement with The Beer Store in order to allow the sale of beer and wine in corner stores, but employees with the alcohol retailer are warning the move will come with a steep cost.
The government tabled legislation Monday that would terminate a 10-year contract with The Beer Store that was signed by the previous Liberal government. The deal permitted an expansion of beer and wine sales to hundreds of grocery stores.
Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly indicated he plans to put beer and wine in corner stores, but he has to break that agreement to do so. While tabling Monday’s bill, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said the current system is a monopoly that is a bad deal for consumers and businesses.
“The province’s current beer distribution system is owned by three global giants who were handed a sweetheart deal by the previous government, and who are more interested in protecting profits than providing convenience or choice for average people,” Fedeli said.
The Beer Store and its union have been embarking on a public relations campaign to push back against having beer in corner stores, with the brewers taking out an ad saying they keep prices down with their distribution system, and the union taking out ads warning that cancelling the Beer Store’s deal could cost taxpayers a lot.
In a statement sent to Global News Monday afternoon, Beer Store President Ted Moroz said the company is reviewing legislative details related to the agreement and is considering legal options.
“The government cannot extinguish our right to damages as outlined in the Master Framework Agreement. It is critical to understand that The Beer Store has, in good faith, based on a legally-negotiated 10-year operating agreement with the Province of Ontario, invested more than $100 million to modernize its stores and to continue to upgrade the consumer experience,” Moroz wrote.
The United Food and Commercial Workers local representing Beer Store employees said Monday that the government’s decision could cost thousands of jobs.
WATCH: Beer Store launching ad campaign against Ford Government (May 12)
“We will fight this government and this premier to keep our jobs and to save the taxpayers the billions Ford is willing to pay to put beer in corner stores,” president John Nock said in a statement.
On Friday, the province’s special adviser on alcohol delivered a report to Fedeli on ways to improve consumer choice and convenience.
The Tories have also announced a number of loosened alcohol restrictions, including allowing alcohol to be served at 9 a.m., seven days a week, letting people consume booze in parks, and legalizing tailgating parties near sports events.
— With files from Nick Westoll