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The Ontario government opened the door to getting out of alcohol retailing by appointing a panel Tuesday to look at ways the liquor monopoly can "work better."

The province's Finance Minister, Greg Sorbara, said that his government had no immediate plans to put the LCBO on the block but that it wants to study the system to make sure the current system is "delivering maximum possible benefits" to Ontarians.

"The LCBO is not for sale," Mr. Sorbara told a news conference at Queen's Park, referring to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario that oversees alcohol sales in the province.

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"However, our government made a commitment to undertake a thorough review of major assets. This is an opportunity for impartial experts to undertake a comprehensive review of the industry and recommend ways it can work better."

The LCBO is the world's biggest wine purchaser and manages a chain of retail stores across the province. It sells spirits, wine and a small amount of beer. The Brewer's Retail sells only beer.

The LCBO operates as a monopoly and was historically plagued by complaints of poor service.

In recent years, though, it has made an obvious effort to please its customers, extending its hours of operation and renovating stores to make products easier to find.



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