Ontario Provincial Parks: Not big on choice

My wife and I went on vacation to Algonquin Park this year. Our hotel was outside the park, but we hiked in the park every day. When we wanted drinks, we were surprised to discover that we could only get Pepsi products. We tried two restaurants and then the grocery stores. In the whole park, we could find only Pepsi products. Since Pepsi contains citric acid, to which I'm allergic, we had no choice but to leave the park to get a drink. We were not too surprised by the restaurants, but to find that even the stores carried only Pepsi was a surprise.

After we got home, my wife wrote to the parks office about it, expressing our concern. Here's a copy of the letter:


My husband and I recently visited Algonquin Park for a few days and had a wonderful time. We even saw a moose.

I'd like to mention one disappointment. Everywhere in the park served only Pepsi, no Coke. My husband is allergic to citric acid, which means he can drink Coke but not Pepsi products. He was unable to get any pop to drink in the park, even at the stores. Has the park made some kind of exclusivity deal with Pepsi, and, if so, why? Doesn't it believe in giving customers a choice?

I'd appreciate an answer to this question, since we like Algonquin and plan to return.

Ann Ewan

To the park's credit, we got a response the next business day. This is what the superintendent had to say:

Hi Ann,

We do have a sole source beverage contract for all provincial parks in Ontario. The process involved negotiations with Coke, Pepsi and others. Through a competitive bidding process, the best bid was Pepsi. We are not alone in taking such an agreement. Many Boards of Education and Universities have similar Agreements. The benefits include a financial aspect as well as marketing and promotion partnerships that create awareness of provincial parks and boost attendance during low use periods.

Pepsi pays a rights fee to Ontario Parks which is substantial.

I was not aware that there is any difference between the two products.

John Winters
Algonquin Provincial Park

So what's going on here? We pay taxes to a government which has laws against monopolies. We paid admission to get into the park. Then we discover that the government that we elected to represent us and our interests is taking money from a foreign corporation to restrict our choice by establishing a monopoly on public lands. If it was one restaurant, it would be one thing, but this is the entirety of Algonquin park, an area much larger than Toronto.

We give the superintendent credit for openly admitting that Pepsi pays a fee "which is substantial." It's interesting that he also finds it necessary to point out that "Many Boards of Education and Universities have similar Agreements." Yes, we'll admit that other organizations may be just as guilty as yours, but that doesn't make what you are doing any more right.

How do other people in Ontario feel about this? If you have a problem with your government taking money from a foreign corporation to act in a way which is not in your interests, then write to your MPP and complain.

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