Watch for Ontario’s ‘Buck-A-Beer’ Ford Government to Sell LCBO Stores Off for Some Quick Cash
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted August 10th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the political playbook.
Make an announcement that could be controversial or provocative on a Friday before a weekend so that maybe they will forget or at least cool down by the time the switchboard opens up on Monday.
A couple of weeks ago Ford ‘s self-described “Government for the People” t made its sudden and shocking announcement to slash the number of seats on Toronto’s city council in half and cancel elections for the position of regional government chair in Niagara and three other regional municipalities.
This Friday, August 10th, the two month-old Ford government announced that all of a sudden, Edmund Clark, who has been chair of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) barely more than seven months after serving as CEO of the TD Bank Group for 12 years, is stepping down.
There was the obligatory “thanks for your service” line in the statement the Ford gang released this Friday afternoon, but nothing in the way of a quote from the departing LCBO chair and not a single word about a possible replacement.
For years now, one Ontario government or another has floated the idea of privatizing the LCBO, only to back down when opponents of the idea remind taxpaying Ontarians that this network of stores is a goose that lays golden eggs for the province – generating, in recent years, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 billion annually in dividends the government can use to pay for a host of services.
But Doug Ford made big promises to cut taxes during the spring election, so he is going to have to find some quick cash somewhere to avoid slashing services even more than he already has and will continue to have to do, even if a cash cow like the LCBO remains in public hands.
It was the lure of fast money that saw the Tory government of Mike Harris move to privatize water testing in the province in the 1990s, then lease Highway 407 near Toronto to a private consortium – a move that led to the cost of tolls for driving on that highway go through the roof.
A decade and a half later, the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne, desperate to find ways to keep from raising taxes, made the disastrous decision to sell off big chunks of Ontario’s hydro infrastructure – a move many critics argue will leave Ontarians vulnerable to price gouging by private sector profiteers who now have control of a commodity essential to our lives.
Off-loading a network of stores across the province that sells alcoholic beverages may not be as crazy or as tragic for generations of Ontarians to come as selling off something as essential to our lives as energy, but it would be short-sighted and costly just the same.
Short-sighted and costly in the sense that it might make the balance sheets at Queen’s Park look better for a year or two, but from there on in, all of those billions of dollars that those LCBO stores generate will be going into private parties’ pockets rather than in to the public coffers.
The province will either have to look for other ways of generating revenue or make even more drastic cuts health care, education and a host of other services.
Will Ford decide to do what other premiers have before him and leave the LCBO and the golden eggs it generates in public hands?
Given the slash and burn approach Ford is already taking to social assistance, mental health care, keeping our public schools in good repair, addressing climate change and other areas, I wouldn’t count on it.
I am betting that a Friday announcement on privatizing the LCBO is just around the corner.
Here is the Ford government’s Friday, August 10th announcement on the Chair of the LCBO stepping down –
August 10, 2018
Today the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Vic Fedeli, issued the following statement on Edmund Clark, Chair of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario:
“Following discussions with Mr. Clark, we have agreed that he will step down as the Chair of the LCBO on August 30, 2018.
Over a career that has spanned more than 40 years in both the public and private sector, Mr. Clark has demonstrated true leadership and a dedication to public service. Our government has appreciated the advice and support he has provided over the last few weeks on a number of files.
On a personal note, I want to thank Ed for continuing to work with us to ensure there is a smooth transition of leadership at the LCBO.”
NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.
A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.
For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .
“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders