The year 2018 marked a significant milestone for the AGCO – it commemorated the agency’s 20-year anniversary, which was celebrated with pride on February 22nd, 2018. It has been another busy and rewarding year for the AGCO. This Business Plan outlines the agency’s accomplishments over the past year, including the transformative changes the AGCO has undergone to advance its agenda to modernize its regulatory approach, business processes and workplace environment. The Business Plan also sets out the path forward for 2019/20 - 2020/21, which promises to be another exciting chapter in the AGCO’s ongoing history.
The Ontario Government has clearly communicated its support for enhancing economic development in Ontario, in part, through the reduction of administrative and regulatory burden on businesses. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is in the process of continuing a major transformation to improve services and increase flexibility while continuing to regulate these industries to ensure they operate with honesty and integrity and in the public interest. As it develops and implements the licensing structure for storefront recreational cannabis, these goals are top of mind.
The AGCO’s Strategic Plan has been refreshed to establish three strategic goals for the organization: Modern Regulator, Service Excellence and People-Centric. These goals are aligned with and support the achievement of key government objectives for enhanced accountability and efficiency in the delivery of public services, evidence-based decision making and policy development, reducing the administrative burden on businesses, and increasing consumer choice.
The continued transition to a risk-based, outcomes-based and compliance-focused approach to regulation, as well as the implementation of this model in the cannabis sector, has provided greater flexibility for regulated entities in terms of how they achieve regulatory compliance. At the same time, these approaches have also enabled the AGCO to more effectively manage risks, while prioritizing resources to ensure its approach to regulation is fair and responsive and protects the public interest.
The AGCO continues its commitment to strategic engagement as a key aspect of how it does business. This strategy has enhanced stakeholder awareness about major corporate initiatives and has been leveraged as a means of consensus-building for the development of evidence-based policy. This approach has aided the AGCO in its support of significant government objectives, including the harmonization of Sunday hours for liquor sales.
Going forward, modernization efforts in accordance with the AGCO Strategic Plan will continue to be realized through a number of significant initiatives, most notably the ongoing implementation of iAGCO, the AGCO’s new electronic service delivery platform that supports licensing, permits and registrations for its regulated sectors. As of November 19, 2018, Ontario’s lottery and gaming registrants can now conduct all of their transactions with the AGCO online. Preparations are underway to launch cannabis and horse racing phases of implementation in the coming year. As of early 2019, iAGCO functionality will allow for the online application and issuance of all liquor licenses.
As the AGCO enters the first year of its new five-year Strategic Plan, the organization is refocussing on the new strategic goals, while continuing to evolve its regulatory and business functions in support of government objectives. The AGCO continues to strive to successfully meet its ever-expanding regulatory mandate within Ontario’s complex alcohol, gaming, horse racing, and storefront retail cannabis sectors.
During the last year, the AGCO accomplished a number of key achievements in support of the AGCO’s Strategic Goals and Business Plan commitments, the following include a few highlights:
- The AGCO has been moving quickly to define the licensing process for private cannabis retailers once the legislation has been enacted and will work closely with the government to support the goal of having these retailers licensed and open for business in April 2019.
- Working with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) to implement the overall modernization strategy, including transitioning new Casino Operators, and supporting key components of the OLG Player Platform and Lottery Modernization Strategy;
- Amendment of several policies for liquor manufacturers: removal of the cap on value-add promotions; no longer mandating licensed off-site winery retail stores to be closed during certain holidays; extension of by-the-glass licensing to include distilleries; expansion of wine sales at Farmers’ Markets to include honey and maple wine; and permitting the sale of ICB wine at on-site wiry retail stores (blend of imported/domestic) and most recently the harmonization of Sunday hours for liquor retailers;
- As part of the “Moving Ahead: Horse Racing Regulation in Ontario” project, and following extensive consultation with Ontario’s horse racing industry, the AGCO implemented changes to the Equine Drug Program process and changes to the Rules of Racing, including the introduction of a Temperature Standard for Race Tracks. The updated rule books were published in fall 2018. An online version of the rule book is also being developed and scheduled for launch in 2019.
- Broadening the Electronic Raffle Regulatory Framework as part of the launch of Phase 2 in November 2018, in order to reduce the administrative burden on Ontario charities and religious organizations, and to provide them with greater flexibility when conducting and managing raffles.
- The continued modernization of the AGCO service delivery model through the phased implementation of the iAGCO web-based portal included the implementation of new phases in 2018.
- Phase 2 went live in January 2018, and included Liquor Sales Licences, and other liquor licensing applications such as Manufacturer’s Representatives, Ferment on Premises and Liquor Delivery services.
- Phase 3 iAGCO services for Gaming Assistants and Lottery Retailers, among others, went live in November 2018.
- A new Complaints and Inquiries Handling Policy was launched to clarify how complaints and inquiries should be received and responded to at the AGCO, and to affirm the intention of the AGCO to use information from complaints and inquiries to support continuous improvement.
- Designing and delivering a number of educational webinar sessions to industry stakeholders affected by new policy directives.
- Under the organizational design initiative, the AGCO is examining the optimal structure for the agency and to identify ways to help it to be more flexible, dynamic, and agile. The aim is to make sure the organization is structured to support the best possible delivery of services and strategic priorities, and able to anticipate and support future internal and external disruption and change.
- The first stage of the Remote Work Arrangements program was launched to provide a structure for employees to be able to work from an alternate work location part of the time, when appropriate to their duties and functions.
- As part of the AGCO Next initiative that is about internally transforming the agency, employees were invited to create and deliver a ‘NEXT Talk’ presentation related to a specific theme. Two successful talks were delivered based on the themes ‘making connections that matter’ and ‘empowering people and fostering growth’.
- In response to the Employee Engagement Survey results the AGCO committed to developing action plans to build on two corporate themes. The first is ‘opportunities to have ideas adopted and put into use’, and the second is ‘efficient and effective work structures and processes’.
- Successfully held the first-ever AGCO virtual Town Hall series to connect with AGCO staff across the province over the course of one week, through a combination of live streaming interactive sessions, themed days with customised content, recorded presentations and a social media platform to respond to questions. The approach was a modern and cost-effective way to engage employees across the province.