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photo illustration by Kyle Hansford

Petition seeks to put wine and beer in Ontario convenience stores

LATELY, CORNER STORES in Ontario have begun carrying not just necessary products and snack foods, but also petitions. Many are now participating in the Free Our Beer campaign, which seeks to make beer and wine available in convenience stores. Backed by the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA), the campaign has make progress since its recent implementation.

“Time has come for [a] more modern alcohol delivery system in this province,” said Dave Bryans, the president of OCSA in an interview with the Fulcrum.

The petition has been wildly popular among consumers. Some stores have 20 pages worth of signatures, and the number is rapidly growing.

“We probably collected 10,000—if not 100,000—signatures. We’re still waiting for that tally,” said Bryans. “It’s what the consumers want; they keep signing it. No matter where we put it out, people happily line up to sign it. It’s phenomenal to see the consumers speaking out.”

According to an Angus Reid poll, 60 per cent of Ontarians support the sale of alcohol by private retailers such as convenience stores. Despite a positive response from consumers, Bryans said the implementation is up to the provincial government after the petition is be presented to them.

“Let’s hope there’s a change in government,” said Bryans. “Premier [Dalton McGuinty] has said ‘no’ and ‘no’ … to everybody. We will sit with the new government [and] say, ‘This is what Ontarians want; this is how they’ve expressed it in a movement throughout the province.’”

Lisa Murray, spokesperson for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, said that carrying out the project wouldn’t be challenging if the government decides to accept the petition.

“There would have to be a regulatory plan put together,” said Murray. “What we are tasked with is ensuring that the laws in place are followed for the people who are responsible.”

The OCSA’s We expect ID program does exactly that—ensures minors do not have access to tobacco or lottery tickets. Bryans said their program would be up to the challenge of regulating alcohol sales as well.

“We wanted to measure ourselves

against the LCBO and the Beer Store, so we hired a company … who went out and measured this with mystery shoppers,” said Bryans.

According to the study, one in four minors purchased alcohol from the

LCBO, compared to one in five from the

Beer Store and one in eight minors who

purchased tobacco or lottery tickets from a convenience store. With the proper regulations, restrictions on the sale of alcohol to minors could be maintained, while making its purchase more convenient for those who are 19 and over.

“From a convenience point of view, if

you’re of age, you don’t have to jump in a cab as a university student and go find this building with a flashing open sign. You can walk to the corner store and get yourself a six pack of beer,” said Bryans.

—Jane Lytvynenko