Break up Beer Store 'quasi-monopoly,' study urges

Ontarians would be able to buy cheaper and more varieties of alcohol if their provincial government...

Ontarians would be able to buy cheaper and more varieties of alcohol if their provincial government would uncork competition, a new report by C.D. Howe Institute says. (QMI Agency file photo)

Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

Ontarians would be able to buy cheaper and more varieties of alcohol if their provincial government would uncork competition, a new report by C.D. Howe Institute says.

Uncorking a Strange Brew: The Need for More Competition in Ontario's Alcoholic Beverage Retailing System, calls for the sale of booze in grocery and corner stores.

The analysis also recommends licensing new beer and wine retailers to compete with the "quasi-monopoly" of The Beer Store, LCBO, Wine Shop and Wine Rack.

"The lack of competition in Ontario's system for alcoholic beverage retailing causes higher prices for consumers and foregone government revenue," the report, released Wednesday, says. "A major component of the lack of competition is the disadvantage faced by small Ontario wineries and breweries relative to the larger producers."

The report disputes conclusions by The Beer Store -- privately-owned by Labatt Brewing, Molson Coors Canada and Sleeman Breweries -- that Ontarians would pay $10 more for a two-four if corner stores were allowed to sell booze.

The Beer Store released a report last year that says prices were generally higher in Quebec than Ontario despite the increased competition.

Anindya Sen, one of the authors of Uncorking a Strange Brew, said they compared prices in the two jurisdictions and, after factoring in taxes and bottle returns, found that Ontario consumers are generally shelling out more money for their brew, especially for international beer brands such as Corona that in an "apples to apples" comparison cost $9.36 extra for a case of 24.

"You do see significant differences in prices," Sen said. "These outcomes are the result of government regulations."


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