Progressive Conservatives loosen Ontario booze, gambling, rules in first budget

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TORONTO — Those who enjoy a boozy brunch or the prospect of drinking in a park will find something to smile at in the Ontario government’s latest budget.

The first fiscal blueprint of the Progressive Conservatives’ term contains several measures to loosen rules around alcohol consumption in the province, while also liberalizing certain gambling and combat sport laws.

The province will allow bars, restaurants, and golf courses to start serving alcohol at 9 a.m., seven days a week, and is promising consultations on a further increase in hours of services in the future.

The government will also let municipalities establish rules about where booze can be consumed in public, such as in some parks. Regulations are also changing to allow tailgating parties near sports events across the province.

Meanwhile, casinos will now be allowed to advertise free alcohol to “level the playing field” with American competitors, the budget says. And the province will loosen rules to allow licensed establishments to advertise “happy hour” promotions.

The government said the measures are meant to respect consumers by “trusting them to make responsible choices.”

“The cornerstone of putting people first is consumer choice and convenience,” Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said. “This is why our government is taking steps to modernize the way we sell, distribute and consume alcohol in Ontario.”

The emphasis on booze comes as the Tories constrain program spending across the board in an effort to chip away at a deficit that stands at $11.7 billion.

The new alcohol regulations will also give wineries, cideries, breweries and distilleries greater flexibility to serve booze at their manufacturing sites, with the government planning to scrap required serving sizes.

Veterans may also soon have access to cheaper beer, as the government looks to lower its cost at Royal Canadian Legion halls by this fall.

Meanwhile, a planned wine tax increase scheduled to take effect April 1 has been paused. And the Tories intend to move forward with a previously announced plan to put beer and wine in corner stores.

The province said it heard from more than 33,000 consumers and businesses during consultations on alcohol availability across Ontario that helped inform its decisions.

The province said it will also create a “competitive market” for online gambling. It said that current prohibitions on the activity in the province is sending revenue to so-called “grey market” websites.

The budget also promises to change how the province regulates combat sports like boxing, mixed martial arts and kickboxing. The government says the rules are out of date and create safety concerns for participants and barriers for business.

The rules and regulations around the sports would align other jurisdictions, the budget says.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

36 COMMENTS

  1. Booze and gambling should not have been a priority in the budget. Government makes money off gambling and booze so I guess that’s why they were a priority.

    • Brandon Gough Well if you don’t know what responsibility means that’s all I can tell you my opinion people aren’t as responsible enough as they should be when drinking changing the drinking laws and make it easier to drink at 9 o’clock in the morning or to have happy hour promotions and people are slamming them back people aren’t as responsible like drinking as they should be so I just feel it’s going to cause trouble and drinking in parks how is that going to be any good

    • People drink at 9am anyways so irrelevant point, allows businesses to make more money. Bar owners still have to be responsible about serving patrons, the rules haven’t changed there so irrelevant point, drinking in parks ya I can kind of agree with you there however I’m sure it has to be because of some event happening and the onus is on the event organizer to keep their attendees in check, I doubt this opens the door for anyone to start cracking beers down at Bellevue Park

    • Brandon Gough the fact that the words teacher or teachers are mentioned in the budget fewer times than alcohol or beer should be telling. This government doesn’t have its priorities straight.

    • That wont build local economy . Building local economy is putting that money into community centers so youth have a place to go to avoid getting drunk at cheap prices . These changes are moot and do nothing for real communities in need of drastic changes . I have lcbo and beer store where I love that’s hardly local and shit all goes back in to local .

    • Brandon Gough it should also be mentioned that the budget for the city police was negatively impacted by the Ford government recently too. So what if drinking in parks results in an increase in demand for police? It’s entirely possible that this could happen.

      To my knowledge tailgating and public drinking in parks is ultimately up to the municipal government too, so this might all be a moot point.

    • Mike Sylvest it’s buck a beer all over again. I mean, when we have healthcare funding set at less than half of the inflation rate, $1 billion cut to social services, the city’s entitlement to the provincial fuel tax was slashed, funding for the ministry of indigenous affairs was cut in half, and no commitment to education. But hey! At least we can drink in parks, right!?

      It’s the same stupidity that helped get Ford elected in the first place and I don’t know how people don’t see that. And the fact that Romano has avoided the media for a week now but has had time to celebrate Ford’s stupidity on social media is just stupid. I could seriously go on for hours about how the alcohol shouldn’t be the focus for the budget, but here we are. I’m afraid we’ll be spending another 9 months trying to convince people this isn’t going to add anything to life in Northern Ontario.

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