Ontario PC leader would allow booze to be sold in corner stores and grocery aisles, consider selling LCBO

TORONTO – Ontario should allow beer, wine and spirits to be sold in corner stores and grocery aisles, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Tuesday.

He said he wouldn’t cut taxes on alcohol, but he would consider selling part or all of the LCBO, which said it brought in $1.6 billion to the province last year.

“So I think we need to be practical and thoughtful, whether that’s a partial sale of LCBO stores, a full sale, allowing the employees in to bid and run them as well, or franchises,” he said.

“I think all these options are valid. I’d like to hear what Ontarians have to say about that, but I’m not going to build new stores, and I think it is time to have LCBO stores go into private hands.”

The government should concentrate on core services like health care and education instead, Hudak said.

But he rejected the notion that selling any part of the LCBO would deprive the province — which is facing a $14.4-billion deficit this year — of much-needed cash.

“I bet you that actually increases revenue at the end of the day,” he said.

Ontario should follow other Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions such as Alberta, British Columbia, West Virginia and Iowa, which allow the private sector to sell alcohol, he said.

“You could drive out of this province in any direction you wanted to go to, and you’d find more choice and more competition in privately run stores,” he said.

“It’s time we did that in Ontario too.”

Hudak’s suggestions for the LCBO are among the trial balloons the Tory leader is floating, which also include having the province get out of the gambling business. But they’re not official party policy.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.