TORONTO -- Wine, beer and cider will be sold in up to 300 grocery stores in Ontario in the next decade, but that appears to largely be the extent to which the Liberal government is planning to modernize alcohol distribution and sales.
Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Thursday that the province will now allow wine to be sold in grocery stores, building on her government's expansion of beer sales last year. An initial block of 70 so-called "universal" licences for grocery stores to sell wine and beer will be allocated this summer, with an eye to having them operational in the fall.
There are currently 292 retail wine stores operating separately in grocery stores, and up to 150 of those could be converted to beer and wine outlets inside the stores with a shared checkout, still operated by the private wine companies.
The timeline will ultimately be up to government but recommendations from Ed Clark, the former TD Bank executive turned premier's adviser on government assets, suggest that by 2025 Ontario could see beer and wine sold in 300 grocery stores, with a further 150 selling beer only.
Thursday's announcement also contained a handful of changes for the spirits, cider and fruit wine industries, but beyond those new measures, the province seems content to end alcohol liberalization there.
Wynne called it a "delicate balancing act" between the needs of the industry, its desire to grow, trade obligations and ensuring competitive prices.
"All of those balls were in the air as the (Clark) council did its work, and as I say, I think we've reached a good balance of all of those things," she said.
"We very intentionally didn't blow the system up because it works very well, because it allows for very good and competitively low prices for consumers."
Ontario allows sales of Canadian and international wines in 300 grocery stores | CTV News