In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AGCO demonstrated its strong commitment to reducing burden and increasing both business flexibility and consumer choice. This included maintaining and adapting its services in support of the businesses and Ontarians that rely on our activities. The AGCO automatically extended the term of all active liquor, gaming, horse racing, and cannabis licences, authorizations and registrations. It also relaxed administrative requirements and amended liquor retail hours and delivery rules to ameliorate the impact of the pandemic on the business community and broader public.
The AGCO continued its compliance monitoring activities and licensing, registration, and customer services during the pandemic. Cannabis store retailers acknowledged the AGCO for its quick transition to virtual inspections, crediting the move as being key to increasing the number of legal stores in the province.
In addition, the AGCO temporarily permitted liquor sales licensees to sell liquor for takeout or delivery along with food, continued to accept applications for Special Occasion Permits (SOP), and issued refunds for application fees to SOP holders conducting an event where more than five (5) people were expected to attend.
The AGCO provided options for charitable lotteries during the COVID-19 pandemic, including flexibility in the application of the terms and conditions attached to current lottery licences. We also actively reviewed Ontario’s horse racing rules and regulations to ensure responsible measures were taken, and temporarily halted breathalyzer testing due to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic challenged the agency to lead change from within, transform its regulatory frameworks, and respond quickly and effectively with new measures to address rapidly evolving issues. The AGCO’s ability to respond quickly was largely due to its multi-year transformative journey to become a Better, Faster, Smarter agency, which is revolutionizing its approach to regulation, fostering a modern workplace, and putting Ontarians first. The AGCO’s renewed strategic priorities proved particularly useful in guiding its response to the pandemic and meeting the needs of the sectors it regulates.