The following letter to the editor was sent to the Globe and Mail in response to an opinion piece written by Andrew Stodart on ways to “maximize returns” from the LCBO.
It appears Andrew Stodart was sipping from the wrong bottle when he wrote on his napkin that the government could make a fast $300 million by returning the LCBO’s stock to suppliers and selling its warehouses.
Stodart – president of something called Brands Group, which provides “creative and innovative solutions for a range of clients with a focus on beverage alcohol” – would have the LCBO adopt a bailment system. Instead of owning the stock in its warehouses, it would sell the stock back to suppliers until it is purchased by customers. It’s a glorified shell game bereft of long-term advantages.
Further, he would sell off the LCBO’s four warehouses. He claims this one-time sale could bring in $50 million. Again, where are the long-term benefits to Ontarians?
Stodart believes he’s found ways to squeeze the grape without making a mess. But there is a glaring potential for disaster. What’s to stop the purchaser from increasing the fees it charges to store the LCBO’s booze – fees that will be assumed by Ontario consumers? Has the government learned nothing from the assault on Highway 407 users?
Stodart does put a cork in the privatization bottle when it comes to selling the LCBO. He acknowledges it would be “a vastly complicated endeavour” and offers highly compelling reasons for keeping the agency public. Last year, it paid a dividend of $1.8 billion to the province – a dividend that has increased every year for the last two decades.
Like a drunk who pawns his computer to buy liquor, Stodart’s schemes are short-sighted and fraught with danger for Ontario consumers. At least Wynne adviser and former TD Bank CEO Ed Clark is clear: he wants a one-time sell-off of the LCBO so Bay Street can get its hands on almost $2 billion annually – money that is currently benefiting Ontario families.
Taking half-baked and self-interested advice from corporate czars is not the way to fix Ontario. Premier Wynne, the LCBO ain’t broke. Don’t fix it.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Ontario Public Service Employees Union