Letter – Agency Stores

Agency Stores. Most people in Rural and Northern Ontario know what they are. Most people in Rural and Northern Ontario know their owners. They are the local shops in our communities, where people can buy a range of products from groceries to diapers and a bottle of wine or a case of beer. For 57 years, local stores in Rural and Northern Ontario have responsibly sold alcohol to their customers, neighbours and community and have made it convenient for people to purchase wine or beer without having to drive great distances.

Agency Stores are a success story worth telling. As Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I know the income from Agency Stores has helped keep grocery stores, corner stores, tourist outfitters and other stores operating successfully in many of our communities. They are often locally owned “mom and pop” shops. We spend money in their stores and that money stays in our communities and strengthens the local economy. Instead of going to the multinational companies that run The Beer Store, it keeps people employed in our communities and makes it convenient for us to buy alcohol in the same place we buy milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables.

Local shop owners understand the tastes and needs of their community. The Ontario Government is proposing to give small business owners the ability to remain profitable, offer greater choice for people in rural and urban communities alike and allow business owners to sell alcohol alongside other household products.

In my own riding of Oxford, Embro Food Market is a perfect example of a local store that might not have stayed open without the agency store and ability to sell alcohol. That would mean the residents of Embro would need to drive to another town just to get some fresh fruits, hamburgers or wine or beer. Examples like the Food Market can be found in communities across Ontario.

Let’s not be fooled by the made-up numbers the multinational breweries which own The Beer Store keep peddling as the cost to bringing choice to Ontario. They are more concerned about protecting their profits than actually making it more convenient for you. Otherwise, why would they object to having more locations to sell their products?

Improving choice and fairness in Ontario is a big win for consumers and small businesses. The question is why would we not enable the same choice in Ontario that others across Canada already enjoy?

I could list the reasons why opening up the monopoly on beer sales is good for Ontario. I can tell you that while the LCBO is owned by the provincial government, The Beer Store is owned by multinational breweries. I can also tell you that making this one change and improving choice in Ontario will create thousands of more jobs for everyday people. Even research from the Ontario Convenience Store Association shows that privately-owned stores have higher success rates of keeping tobacco out of our children’s hands than The Beer Store does with alcohol.

It’s time to bring the local store model into towns and cities across Ontario to improve consumer convenience while supporting our small businesses and creating more jobs in every corner of the province.

Ernie Hardeman
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

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