LCBO sell-off plan called a mistake

Selling the LCBO would be a mistake just as it was to sell off Highway 407 for a one-time cash infusion, Conservative leadership candidate Chris Stockwell said during last night's television debate.

The Toronto Star
February 28, 2002

LCBO sell-off plan called a mistake
Richard Brennan

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Selling the LCBO would be a mistake just as it was to sell off Highway 407 for a one-time cash infusion, Conservative leadership candidate Chris Stockwell said during last night's television debate.

"I think privatizing the LCBO is as bad an idea as Ernie's privatizing 407," Stockwell said referring his fellow leadership candidate and former finance minister Ernie Eves.

The Conservative government sold the highway to private concerns just before the 1999 election for $3.1 billion, representing about $1.6 billion in profit.

Consumers and opposition critics have often criticized the government for the sale.

"I think it was inefficient, ineffective and we are now the strong arm for the company to collect their fines through the licences. It wasn't a good idea, it didn't pan out. It's like selling your horse to buy a cart. There is no value to this," said Stockwell, who was the speaker of the Legislature when the highway was sold and is now labour minister.

Stockwell was reacting to a proposal from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, another candidate, to sell off the LCBO, TV Ontario, Ontario Place and a number of other provincially owned properties. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario turns over more than $900 million a year in profit to the province, plus another $300 million in sales taxes.

Flaherty, noting that the province is going to need the money from these sales in order to balance the books, said last night: "The government doesn't belong in the liquor business … (or) TV stations."

Environment Minister Elizabeth Witmer also came out against selling off both the LCBO and TVO.

Eves and Health Minister Tony Clement said they would look at whether there was a business case to sell the LCBO.


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