The highly-anticipated provincial budget has been released and, as expected, it focuses heavily in liberalizing laws governing alcohol sales in Ontario.
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli’s released the Progressive Conservative’s first budget on Thursday, April 11. After promising to rectify what the PC government called years of fiscal mismanagement at the hands of the former Liberal government, Fedeli said that the government would work to make life easier for residents.
As far as alcohol goes, the Doug Ford government has some ambitious plans–which include trying to get alcohol into corner stores.
In the budget, the government says the rules around the retail sale and consumption of beverage alcohol in Ontario are “outdated and unique in Canada.”
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It says Ontario has the lowest density of retail outlets selling beverage alcohol of all the provinces in Canada, adding that there are over 8,000 retail stores in Quebec selling beverage alcohol, but less than 3,000 in Ontario.
The province says that, after consulting with over 33,000 consumers and businesses, it’s committed to substantially expanding consumer access to alcohol.
As expected, the province says it’s creating a tailgating permit for eligible sporting events.
Eligible events would include professional, semi-professional and postsecondary sporting events.
It’s also introducing legislation that will permit municipalities to designate public areas, such as parks, for the consumption of alcohol.
British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec already allow this.
It says it’s also providing flexibility for wineries, cideries, breweries and distilleries to promote their products at manufacturing sites by removing the prescribed serving sizes for “by the glass” licences.
The province will also be extending hours of alcohol service at licensed establishments — including bars, restaurants and golf courses — to a 9:00 a.m. start, seven days per week.
Hours of alcohol service will also start at 9:00 a.m. for “by the glass” licences, and Special Occasion Permits. The government says it will continue consulting further on measures related to the additional extension of hours.
It also says it’s changing advertising rules to allow for “happy hour” in Ontario. This would allow licensed establishments to advertise their promotions as they do in British Columbia and Alberta.
The province is also introducing legislation to pause the previous government’s changes to the Wine Tax, which was scheduled to increase on April 1. This will make wine slightly more affordable for consumers.
These changes are expected to be in place by summer 2019.
The province also says it’s is evaluating ways to reduce the cost of beer at the Royal Canadian Legion halls by fall 2019.
What do you think of the proposed changes to alcohol sales in Ontario?