Alberta shouldn’t take after Ontario and sell beer in grocery stores

New Ontario legislature allows for the selling of beer in grocery stores, with similar legislation for wine also in the works. The Toronto Star reported on these law changes, detailing how grocery stores will be allowed to sell six packs and certain retailers would be allowed to sell twelve packs, but anything more would not be allowed on their shelves. By May 2017, 150 of grocery stores will be able to sell beer and that number can rise to a maximum of 450 of the 1,500 grocery stores province wide.

With this law change many are asking if Alberta should implement a similar law. If Alberta were to follow suit, the changes would ultimately serve little benefit to Albertans.

Before this legislation, the Beer Store held the de facto beer selling monopoly since 1927. The Beer Store was the only retailer throughout the province selling beer in its 448 locations. Alberta does not have monopolized liquor stores, with the Albertan government privatizing the industry in 1993. The differences between Albertan and Ontarian liquor and beer sales allowed for Alberta to have many private businesses sell all types of alcohol, rather than a single seller limited to selling beer.

Albertans have access to a plentiful amount of liquor stores throughout the province, with many grocery stores having their own liquor stores as separate nearby buildings. In an April 2014 article, The Calgary Sun reported that there were 1,300 retail liquor stores in the province. The potential issues of liquor and beer accessibility that could affect Ontario are unlikely to affect Albertans.

The privatizing of Alberta liquor retailers has allowed for many businesses both large and small to develop and grow. Both large corporations and the mom and pop liquor stores would be affected by a law change similar to those of Ontario, with a more significant burden placed upon these locally owned and operated shops. The sales of beer and potentially other kinds of alcohol in the future would threaten to take away customers from these local businesses and give them to bigger grocery stores.

Grocery stores in Alberta are currently able to open their own liquor and beer stores in their own parking lot. These grocery owned liquor stores are already selling a greater range of selection than Ontarian grocery stores would be and ultimately serves as a reminder in the key difference between beer sales in Ontario and Alberta. While in Ontario these beer stoked shelves of a grocery store allow consumers an alternative to the Beer Store, in Alberta liquor stores are already plentiful and grocery stores have no real urge to sell beer on their shelves (especially with the better alternative of a fully stocked liquor store of their own).

Ultimately Alberta should not feel the need to follow Ontario’s lead and bring beer to the shelves of grocery stores. Alcohol is already overflowing in Alberta’s cup, we have no need for more.

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