The document, obtained by Global News from a party source, directs PC MPPs to “go out to a neighbourhood convenience store to showcase it as a potential future location for Ontarians to buy beer and wine.” The email, sent last Friday to PC Caucus by Laryssa Waler, the premier’s executive director of communications also lays out a series of templates for posting to social media.
One suggests MPPs to post: “If you’re picking up some chips and dip here at (NAME), wouldn’t it be nice to be able to grab some beer or a bottle of wine too? We hear you!”
Another template reads: “I support (NAME), owner of (STORE). I think it’s only fair that he/she should be allowed to sell beer and wine too!”
Yet another reads: “I want to come back here to (INSERT NAME OF STORE) soon to pick up some beer or a bottle of wine. Shopping for beer and wine at (NAME OF STORE) in (TOWN), supports our local business owners.”
The email also warns MPPs “if you are talking about The Beer Store monopoly please be careful with the language you use.”
It also suggests a number of ideas for photo backgrounds including “standing in front of a fridge talking about more choice and more convenience with shoppers or the owner, standing in front the store if it’s recognizable in your riding. Speaking with the owner out front or at the till!”
Over the weekend, scores of MPPs followed the directions, including multiple ministers. The campaign comes after legislation was introduced late last month that essentially allows the government to rip up a 10-year contract with The Beer Store.
The contract, also known as the ‘master framework agreement’ was signed by the previous Liberal government and is now the subject a legal battle between the government and the three brewers that own The Beer Store: Molson, Labatt and Sleeman.
When reached by phone Tuesday, Waler said, “The fact that Global News thinks that a co-ordinated social media campaign is newsworthy is baffling.”
She went on to say the campaign worked: “Our MPPs are advocates for small businesses in their community and they are always happy to speak to owners about increased choice and fairness. We think that the people of Ontario should be put ahead of beer profits.”
Despite widespread backlash over the flurry of posts on social media and hundreds of negative and mocking comments, Waler said: “We won an election by focusing on our digital strategy so it shouldn’t be surprising that we continue to use digital to communicate with our constituents.”
She also pointed to other instances where a similar strategy was used “Our MPPs are active on social media every day. When we have a mental health announcement they post on mental health, when we have a transit announcement you’ll notice we post about transit. It would be nice if the opposition would take as much interest in our posts about increased mental health funding as they do about choice and convenience in alcohol sales.”
WATCH: The Ontario PC government terminates a 10-year contract with The Beer Store.