Conservative MPPs spent the weekend at convenience stores across the province, hobnobbing with store-owners and sympathizing with hard-luck Ontarians who can’t yet snag six-packs and bottles of vino with their Lotto Max and Doritos.
But that could soon change after the province tabled legislation last week to cancel a 10-year agreement with The Beer Store, paving the way for beer and wine to be sold at corner stores.
Members of Premier Doug Ford’s government spent the last few days enthusiastically touting that plan on Twitter.
In a coordinated series of tweets, Tory MPPs celebrated the looming change while repeatedly pointing out how unfair it is that Ontarians can’t walk into their neighbourhood corner store and pick up alcohol.
“If you’re picking up some chips and dip at Anthony’s store on Highway 17 East of North Bay, wouldn’t it be nice to grab some beer or a bottle of wine too? We hear you!” tweeted Finance Minister Vic Fedeli.
“Do you think it’s fair that multi-national companies have a monopoly on beer sales? We don’t!” added Education Minister Lisa Thompson.
Dozens of MPPs followed suit, barraging the social media site with what they consider the advantages of expanded access to alcohol.
But not everyone shared their enthusiasm.
Many took particular issue with Christine Elliott’s support in light of her role as Ontario’s Health Minister.
You are the health minister. Act like it. Beer and other alcohol lead to things like liver disease and obesity and drunk driving. All of which increases the cost of health care in Ontario. The PC Party is a bunch of lemmings following their leader over the cliff. #PartyOverLeader
— DM Feek (@scfeek) June 2, 2019
You’re the Minister of Health, and this is what you’re worried about. Profoundly disappointing. Be better.
— Dylan Blacquiere (@dylanblacquiere) June 2, 2019
As the Minister of Health, how are you promoting easier access to alcohol?
— Beth Robertson (@BethRRobertson) June 2, 2019
Are you out of your mind? You’re the health minister. Alcohol is great fun but empirical research to date is that no amount is safe
— Dan Piquette (@dwpiquette) June 1, 2019
Others criticized the Ontario PCs for prioritizing alcohol sales over more pertinent issues, with many pointing out the extreme price-tag for cancelling the contract with the Beer Store.
I think people would be fine with beer in convenience stores. I don’t think there’s any demographic that agrees this Government should be spending a billion dollars doing it while cutting funding to children like the ones with autism. That’s just shameful.
— Chris Johnston (@chrisakachuck) June 1, 2019
I think it’s only fair that Ontarians should have access to properly funded education and health care, as well as a proper plan to combat climate change. But sure, yeah, beer is important too I guess.
— Megan (@jmegan) June 3, 2019
I agree with you on most thing @fordnation but not this one. There is nothing wrong with the way things are now. The Beer store is highly regulated! Corner stores won’t be.
— Brian (@BWatson74) June 2, 2019
This isn’t about what’s fair and I think you know that, Doug. Breaking this contract will come at a price. Beer is plenty accessible. Please rethink this disastrous decision and wait until the contract expires. Focus on things that matter…this doesn’t. #ONpoli
— Caroline (@cgulbronson) June 2, 2019
Despite the costs to break the contract, Fedeli maintained last week that it was the right move.
“The province’s current beer distribution 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 and choice for average people. It’s a monopoly that’s a bad deal for consumers and businesses and is deeply unfair to the people of Ontario,” he said.
The Beer Store intends to challenged the legislation. In a statement, Beer Store president Ted Moroz said:
“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.
The province’s goal is to bring the legislation to a final vote before the current sitting of the legislature concludes.
The summer break starts on June 7.