Advisory Panel Recommends Changes to Ontario’s Liquor Retailing System

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TORONTO, ON – A panel mandated to look into ways for the Government of Ontario to earn more money from several key Crown Corporations is advising changes to the province’s liquor retailing system that could provide a number of advantages to craft breweries in Ontario and elsewhere.

Led by Ed Clark, former President and CEO of TD Bank Group, the panel released an initial report yesterday that suggests numerous changes at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation (OPG).

In terms of the LCBO, while the report doesn’t advise full privatization of the government owned retail chain, it does push for a number of changes in the province’s beer retailing landscape, including:

  • Converting some LCBO locations to specialty shops which emphasize craft beer or craft distillery products.
  • Establishing an online ordering system that would allow any alcohol producer or supplier in the world – including breweries – to offer products that can be ordered for pick-up at any LCBO location.
  • Allowing a number of private craft beer specialty stores to open, featuring beer from Ontario and around the world.
  • Increasing the Cost of Service charges levied against The Beer Store, while also legislating that the owners of the chain – Molson, Labatt and Sleeman – cannot increase the prices changed to consumers in order to offset the higher fees.
  • Adding 12-packs to the beer selection at the LCBO, which is currently limited to selling 6-packs or smaller formats due to an agreement with The Beer Store.
  • Mandating greater corporate transparency for The Beer Store, and ensuring that non-owner breweries are given equal display of their products in the retail stores.

In a news release, Finance Minister Charles Sousa said that the government “agrees with the council’s initial proposals,” although no changes are expected to be made in the short term. Instead, this initial report and a final report expected in early 2015 are likely to provide a framework for much of the province’s 2015 Budget which will be announced next spring.

The full report – Retain & Gain: Making Ontario’s Assets Work Better for Taxpayers and Consumers – is available to view online as part of an article at canada.com.

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