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Ontario NDP leader wouldn't introduce corner store sale of beer and wine

Last Updated May 19, 2018 at 6:20 pm EDT

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath arrives at a market during a campaign stop in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Saturday, May 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – The current system of restricted retail beer and wine sales in Ontario works well and is socially responsible, New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said Saturday.

Campaigning in Thunder Bay, Ont., Horwath said there’s no need to allow convenience stores to carry the products — a perennially favoured if never-implemented idea that once helped propel the Liberals to office in the mid-1980s.

“I’m going to be straight up about it: I don’t think we need to have beer and wine in the corner stores,” Horwath said. “I don’t think this is a broken system in Ontario. I don’t necessarily think that we need to mess with it. It’s working fine for people.”

The prospect of liberalized sales surfaced during the June 7 campaign when Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford said he would allow corner-store sales of beer and wine if he’s elected premier.

On Friday, ahead of the Victoria Day long weekend, Ford made his campaign promise on the topic, and on Saturday reaffirmed the commitment while at a brewery in Baysville, Ont.

“This is about making life a bit more convenient for you,” Ford said Saturday. “The Liberals and NDP think they know what’s best for you. They oppose giving you more choice and convenience when it comes to buying beer and wine.”

But Horwath poured cold beer on that notion, saying people already know where they can buy their alcohol. The issue, she said, goes beyond one of convenience.

“It’s more than just accessibility; it’s social responsibility,” Horwath said. “That social responsibility piece is important.”

Horwath was campaigning in northern Ontario on Saturday, where she talked up her health-care strategy — more hospital beds and attention to long-term care — and visited a farmer’s market.

The Liberal government expanded alcohol sales in recent years beyond the provincially run LCBO and privately owned Beer Store, with more than 350 grocery stores authorized to sell beer and cider, and 70 allowed to sell wine.

Under their plan, up to 450 grocery stores will sell beer and cider, including 300 also selling wine, but the Liberals haven’t supported expanding sales to other retail outlets.