Welland, July 26, 2012 - Ontario’s two largest Ontario winery organizations have joined the province in rejecting the idea of selling their bottles in convenience stores.
The announcement comes after a petition with more than 112,500 signatures calling for legalizing the sale of beer and wine in corner stores was presented to Queen’s Park on Wednesday.
In an e-mail, a spokesman for Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said the government believes Ontarians are well served by the existing alcohol retail system that also encourages social responsibility.
“We’re (also) not keen on beer and wine in convenience stores,” said Hillary Dawson, president of the Wine Council of Ontario.
She said reasons include social responsibility concerns, and the marketability of high-end Ontario Vintners Quality Alliance wines in convenience-oriented outlets.
“Those kind of set-ups … very much will be for the big brands, and more at a value price,” she said.
Dawson said the council continues to speak to the province about allowing private wine stores for Ontario and other vintages, including international ones.
“We know they would work, we’ve done all the analysis,” she said.
As it stands, primarily two companies — Andrew Peller Ltd. and Constellation Brands (Vincor Canada) — can sell wine in private stores in Ontario, if they have a licence to do it before 1993 when the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect.
Winery and Grower Alliance of Ontario CEO Patrick Gedge said his group is also opposed to alcohol being sold in corner stores, as is the case in Quebec.
“We’re very strong supporters of the LCBO distribution network,” he said.
Nor did Gedge’s group — which includes the largest provincial wine companies and some grape growers — feel the wine store option would work.
“We haven’t seen any model that would demonstrate that type of distribution network would be economically or financially successful,” he said.
Ontario Convenience Stores Association CEO Dave Bryans said as for the petition rejection, “we could have predicted it would be the same politicians that would say no.
“We will work with all the parties. It’s not what we’re asking for, (it’s what) voters are asking for,” said Bryans, noting an Angus Reid survey last year showed most Ontarians over the age of 18 supported beer and wine in Ontario convenience stores.
As for the Wine Council’s alternate proposal, Bryans said a private wine store would find it tough to survive with profit margins based solely on selling wine.
Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor said he introduced a private member’s bill some time ago allowing the sale of wine, “particularly VQA wine,” in convenience stores.
“To my surprise, and I was really caught off guard, the (wineries) didn’t support it,” Craitor said.
As a result, the bill died about four years ago.
“I still support the government finding ways to help the industry promote and sell VQA wine,” Craitor said.