Ontario taxpayers may have to pay the price of Doug Ford permitting convenience stores to sell beer.  A new report from the CBC indicates that the Ford government's plan to allow corner stores and big box stores to sell beer could have a hefty $100-million price tag associated with it. So, it seems that Ontario beer sales in corner stores may not be so great an idea after all.

Last week, the provincial government unveiled its first budget to the public, announcing the fulfilment of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party's promise made during the election campaign to expand the beer retail market to corner stores and big box stores.

At the time, the prospect of grabbing a cold one from a local corner store sounded too good to be true.  And now, Ontarians are realizing that it just might be.

According to a new CBC report, implementing beer sales in corner stores breaches a contract that is currently in place between the province, The Beer Store, and three major brewers.  The contract - which expires at the end of 2025 - restricts the number and type of retail stores that can sell beer in Ontario.

Any breach of the contract's key terms - including the expansion of the beer retail market to Ontario's 11,000 convenience stores - will result in financial penalties.  Beer industry sources inform CBC that these penalties would substantially exceed $100-million.

The contract is called the Master Framework Agreement and is available to the public.  Signed by the Liberal government back in 2015, the CBC reports that the document has "ironclad provisions" that prohibit the government from creating new laws to get out of the deal.

Negotiations between the government, The Beer Store, and the brewers have been kept quiet.

A spokesperson for The Beer Store emailed a statement to CBC yesterday stating, "The discussions are aimed at reaching a mutually agreeable amendment … to improve customer convenience and choice. We cannot disclose the details of these ongoing discussions."

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli commented in an interview yesterday, "We're going to continue to consult right across the industry over the course of the summer.  I think the premier was pretty clear during the election and since that we want to put beer and wine in corner stores, big box stores, and more grocery stores because we want to offer people more choice and convenience." 

After reporters questioned whether or not expanding beer retail sales is worth the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in penalties, Fedeli responded, "Well, we don't make any presumptions."

Even though Ford reportedly abstains from alcohol, his government has prioritized expanding the beer retail market.  The political implications of breaching this contract are tremendous, especially considering how Ford often refers to "respecting taxpayers" as the cornerstone of his platform.  

One thing is for sure: if beer is indeed sold at corner stores, it will be much more expensive than products sold at The Beer Store, where brewers set their own retail prices, reports CBC.

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