(Toronto) Ontarians will be able to buy beer, wine, cider and ready-to-drink cocktails in convenience and grocery stores by 2026, Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday.

Ontario thus becomes the second province, after Quebec, to allow the sale of beer in convenience stores — and the first to authorize the sale of ready-to-drink cocktails in these businesses.

Ford said in a news conference Thursday that the expanded market will provide consumers with more choice, more convenience and more time. He said Ontario needed to “start treating people like adults.”

This decision fulfills a promise made by Mr. Ford during his first election campaign, in 2018. It is also the Prime Minister’s second attempt to allow the sale of beer and wine in convenience stores, after having adopted, but without enact a law to cancel an agreement with the private chain “Beer Store”.

This agreement allowed the sale of beer and wine in up to 450 grocery stores in Ontario, with the Beer Store chain retaining exclusive rights to sell cases of 12 and 24 beers. The Ford government announced Thursday that this agreement will end in 2025.

Under Ford’s plan, eligible retail outlets across the province, including about 6,700 convenience stores and 1,800 other grocery stores, will be able to set their own prices. Currently, all retail outlets must adhere to prices set by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).

“My friends, we all have busy lives,” the Prime Minister said Thursday. So, imagine that on a Friday evening in December, before going to a holiday party, you could stop by the local convenience store instead of being stuck in a long line at the LCBO.”

Senior officials say that a certain amount of shelf space in stores will have to be reserved for microbreweries and small wine growers.

The new agreement with “Beer Store” will allow this chain to maintain “its main role as a distributor of beer to retailers, bars and restaurants” during the transition period, “at least until 2031”. The chain also “agreed to continue” to manage the provincial alcohol beverage container recycling program “at least until 2031.” No commitments have been made beyond the five-year term of the new agreement, officials said.

Once the new system is operational, Ontario will have the third highest density of alcohol retail stores in Canada, up from its current lowest position.

The Ford government is also providing additional funding of $10 million over five years to the Department of Health to support its social responsibility efforts.

Ontario’s auditor general said in a report earlier this month that government officials had not consulted Public Health Ontario on the implications of expanded alcohol sales in recent years.

The Ontario Public Health Association expressed concerns earlier this year about a possible expansion of alcohol sales, saying it would have negative health consequences.

“Research and real-world evidence show that when alcohol becomes cheaper and more available, consumption increases, as do alcohol-related harms,” the association wrote in a statement.

“Alcohol is the most consumed substance in Ontario, but most people are unaware of the dangers it can cause to their health. »

As part of modernizing alcohol sales, the Ford government also announced Thursday that it would introduce a bill to eliminate the 6.1% base tax on wine sold at the winemaker, “which will make rates competitive with those in other provinces, including British Columbia,” the government says.