The Ontario government announced on Thursday that it will allow beer, wine, cider, coolers, seltzers, and other low-alcohol, ready-to-drink beverages to be sold in convenience, grocery, and big box stores starting in 2026.
The decision fulfills a promise made by Premier Doug Ford during the 2018 election. Ford said in a news release that there is no reason why Ontario consumers shouldn’t enjoy the same convenient shopping experience as Canadians in other provinces when buying alcohol.
The government is calling the expansion “the largest expansion of consumer choice and convenience since the end of prohibition almost 100 years ago.” The changes mean that Ontario will have the third-highest density of alcohol retail stores in Canada. It’s currently at the bottom of the list.
However, the provincial auditor general noted in the 2023 Value for Money audit that Public Health Ontario was not consulted with regard to the impact increasing access to alcohol would have.
Concerns were also raised by the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) about the negative health implications that could occur with the expansion of alcohol sales.
The OPHA said in a statement that it is “deeply concerned” about the potential for increased alcohol consumption and related harms, such as drunk driving, liver disease, and violence.
The association is calling on the government to implement a number of measures to mitigate the risks, such as restricting the hours of sale, limiting the number of stores that can sell alcohol, and requiring staff to be trained in how to identify and refuse service to intoxicated customers.
The government has not yet said what measures it will take to mitigate the risks of increased alcohol consumption.