Buck a beer is back, as Doug Ford unveils plan for cheaper suds

Premier Doug Ford confirmed this morning that he would introduce legislation to lower the price of a bottle or can of beer to $1 from $1.25 ahead of the Labour Day weekend.

Ford, during a news conference Tuesday in Prince Edward County, said the Progressive Conservative government will move ahead with the plan to return buck a beer by Aug. 27.

The PC’s move applies to brews under 5.6 per cent alcohol content.

“Nobody is being forced to lower their prices and there will be no subsidies or tax handouts,” Ford told reporters at Barley Days Brewery in Picton, Ont., around 200 kilometres east of Toronto.

Instead, he said, the province is trying to encourage Ontario’s 260 breweries to “bring their prices down” through the buck-a-beer challenge. That challenge will give brewers promotions and advertising advantages in the LCBO, such as limited time discounts and in-store displays, that Ford called “priceless.”

He added: “Those who get there first will be recognized throughout the year.”

Under buck a beer, however, brewers would not be required to charge less. The lower minimum price also does not apply to draft beer sold in restaurants and bars, nor does it include the bottle deposit. Cider, spirits and wine are exempt from the reduced pricing.

The PCs have long lamented the loss of buck-a-beer sales after the Liberals, under then-premier Dalton McGuinty, scrapped it in 2008 — raising the minimum price of a 24-pack of beer to $25.60.

Ford blamed the Liberals Tuesday for raising the price and making buck a beer illegal — calling it “red tape.”

He said it amounted to the government “putting its hand in your pocket” each time you went to buy a six-pack of beer.

Ford made the return of buck a beer one of his marquee election promises ahead of the Tory’s majority victory. He also vowed to expand the sale of beer, wine and spirits to corner stores across the province.

But not everyone welcomed the move.

Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath attacked Ford for pushing for buck a beer just days after cutting the basic income pilot.

“His priorities are completely mixed up,” Horwath said at Queen’s Park.

She added it’s “absolutely” not true that the buck-a-beer incentives won’t cost the government any money — noting product placements and advertising in the LCBO’s magazine do have monetary value.

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