Force Ford to reverse the privatization of alcohol sales

PV Ontario Bureau 

In December 2023, the Ontario government announced that the Master Framework Agreement (MFA) with The Beer Store, which restricted the number of non-Beer Store retail stores permitted to sell beer, would not be renewed. Simultaneously, the Tories announced that grocery stores, big box stores and convenience stores would be permitted to sell beer, cider, wine and premixed cocktails without restrictions starting in January 2026. The publicly owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) will retain its monopoly on hard liquor.

While the MFA should not be renewed, the problem isn’t the lack of private stores, it’s the presence of them.

Under the guise of choice and convenience, and using the relatively unpopular private ownership of The Beer Store as a scapegoat, the Ford government is undermining social responsibility, decent union jobs. It is also jeopardizing a significant source of public revenue which is used to finance public services including public health programs which mitigate the negative effects of alcohol addiction. The Tories are deliberately doing this to benefit the retail monopolies, an industry the government has consistently supported with a variety of policies at the expense of the public.

The LCBO has over 8000 unionized employees in close to 700 stores across the province, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). In 2023, these stores delivered $3.72 billion in public revenue, with $2.58 billion going to the province and the remainder to the federal government in the form of taxes on alcohol. Each LCBO employee generates an average of $1943.84 in sales per hour, or $975.85 in public revenue with $676.80 going to the province every 60 minutes per worker.

The Beer Store has almost 7000 unionized employees in over 400 stores across the province, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 12R24. It is privately owned by the 3 largest brewers and operates on a cost-recovery basis, with some of the most efficient and low-cost distribution infrastructure in Ontario, reaching all parts of the province. The Beer Store also operates the Ontario Deposit Return Program, which diverts over 80 percent of all alcohol containers from landfills to be recycled.

At its Provincial Committee meeting on March 16-17, the Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) adopted a special resolution calling for the reversal of privatized alcohol sales.

“Rather than dramatically expanding alcohol sales in private retail stores while risking decent jobs and encouraging the decline of the LCBO’s public revenue stream and the Beer Store’s distribution and recycling system, we are calling on the provincial government to expand and strengthen the publicly owned LCBO by:

  • Absorbing the 389 privately owned “LCBO Convenience Outlets” in rural Ontario and over 500 private wine kiosks located primarily in grocery stores.
  • Allowing the MFA to expire and placing the Beer Store into public ownership through the LCBO.
  • Absorbing the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) and placing all privately owned cannabis retail shops into public ownership through the LCBO.
  • Increasing LCBO hours of operation and opening new stores where necessary.”

The Party is also calling on the government to utilize the LCBO’s retail monopoly to mitigate the harmful impacts of alcohol addiction by:

  • Eliminating the ability of grocery stores and other retailers to sell alcohol, ensuring that all people have the right to access groceries without having alcoholic products being promoted on the same shelves.
  • Increasing the public revenue in order to finance comprehensive public healthcare services including addiction treatment.

Recognizing that both the Beer Store and LCBO have extensive infrastructure in all parts of Ontario, the Party says that this expertise and infrastructure should be used “to improve food security by designing public food distribution infrastructure modeled on the low-cost distribution system and province-wide price uniformity that currently exists for alcoholic beverages, particularly for Northern and remote communities.”


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