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Monday, April 28, 2014

Farmers markets to sell Ontario wines May 1

Last December, Premier Kathleen Wynne promised that Ontario would be joining British Columbia in relaxing provincial liquor laws to allow certain Ontario made wines to be sold at the province’s farmers’ markets as of May 1. 

There are approximately 200 farmers’ markets in Ontario and the wines will have to qualify as Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wines, which are made only with Ontario grapes.

As far as I can tell, VQA applies only to grape wines. But isn’t Ms. Wynne the minister of agriculture and food? How does she get away with such blatant favouritism?

Fruit Wines of Ontario, an association of wineries using fruit other than grapes, offers this description on its website:

Made from 100% Ontario fruit, these fruit wines bring the best of the harvest to you. From the orchards and berry patches come wines crafted with apples, pears, peaches, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and more. Next time you’re looking for an alternative to a dry table wine, a sparkling refresher, or a dessert iced wine—surprise yourself with a delicious fruit wine from Ontario.”

While I welcome any relaxation of the province’s draconian liquor laws or the watering down of its duopoly on the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages, I find it curious that this new policy is not extended to Ontario fruit wines.

This policy also begs the question, If farmers’ markets can be counted on to sell alcoholic beverages responsibly, why cannot grocery and other retail outlets do so as well? But Kathleen Wynne has repeatedly rejected calls to allow corner stores, etc., to sell beer and wine.

The Wynne government is, apparently, not guided by any set of basic principles. It makes policy based on political expediency. Yes, it sometimes cloaks policies with moral justifications such as Social Responsibility. This it says is part of what leads them to keep alive the duopoly on alcoholic beverages. One needs only gently prod this argument a bit, however, and the phony veil of social responsibility pulls away to reveal political expediency as its core purpose.

It’s not that Wynne makes policies willy-nilly. No indeed. Her policies seem carefully calibrated against how much tax can be gouged out of the Ontario economy or how many votes a policy can garner.

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  1. Each time Wynne opens her mouth on the subject, she exposes the hypocrisy which fuels Liberal policy on alcohol sales. Either she is aware of the 200+ convenience stores already selling liquor products and is in denial, or she hasn't a clue what her own liquor board is up to. Like McGuinty she is preaching one message to GTA and hoping they are too naive to ever venture into the hinterlands and observe modern sales of beer and wine along with basic groceries,
    The Agency store program expanded rapidly for a while, then came to a stop at the time of the last LCBO-OPSEU bargaining negotiations. Wynne is enjoined from expanding the program further, or even admitting its existence, by her union supporters. Her last announcement of trial liquor kiosks in grocery chains, brought a statement from OPSEU that the agency stores remained a "problem" to be addressed later.
    Rather than move towards more sales in convenience stores, the union actually wants the existing program rolled back. Only in Ont could such an absurd policy exist in the 21th century.

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