St Catharines Standard, June 2012
Some Ontario wine advocates are calling for changes to the LCBO as the standing committee on government agencies wraps up its review of the liquor board.
The legislative committee hosted two sessions this week, one in Niagara Falls and the other in Trenton, and invited the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and various stakeholders to present their views.
“The efforts and results over the past few years are good, but we still think there is a challenge in the way things are set up,” said Hillary Dawson, president of the Wine Council of Ontario. “There are half a million cases of wine over the next three years that need to be sold. Wine that should have a prospect for market.”
While the LCBO has plans to expand and add more shelf space — equivalent to 30-40 winery retail stores — over the next two years, Dawson is concerned about wines priced above $15. Those bottles are sold in the vintages section of LCBO stores and the liquor board only orders limited supplies, she said.
“The orders are small and limited and the orders are not consistent,” she said. “You could release a Pinot Noir and it sells well, but it’s not guaranteed to be ordered next year.”
A possible solution would be allowing entrepreneurs to open private retail stores, she said.
The meetings come after the Progressive Conservative party suggested the committee review the LCBO, said Ernie Hardeman, Tory MPP for Oxford.
All parties are asked to put forth one or two government agencies they’d like to see reviewed, he said. Hardeman participated in the Niagara Falls consultation in the place of another committee member.
“Our party did pick the LCBO because of the challenges we keep hearing about from the wine industry in the province,” he said. “The wine industry believes they (LCBO) don’t put enough emphasis on Ontario wines. And because there are a lot of small wineries that have problems getting their product shelf space within the LCBO.”
The Grape Growers of Ontario is calling on the government to direct the LCBO to set targets for growth in the Ontario wine categories and vintages. The organization isn’t happy that the domestic wine share of the Ontario market is 39%.
For its part, the LCBO says it is open to recommendations.
“The LCBO recognizes there is always room for improvement and we welcome the comments,” said Julie Rosenberg, spokeswoman for the LCBO.
The committee now must assemble a majority report for the members and report back to the House. No timeline for that has been set.