LCBO staff should worry for jobs, PCs say
Finance Minister Charles Sousa. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun)
LCBO employees should be worried for their jobs as the Ontario Liberal government tries to squeeze more profits out of the liquor retailer and other publicly owned agencies, Interim Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Wilson says.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Tuesday that he is not interested in selling off the LCBO, Hydro One or Ontario Power Generation (OPG) in their entirety but did not rule out investment from outside groups like public pension funds.
An advisory panel run by banker Ed Clark is looking at a wide range of options to “maximize” the profits flowing into the provincial treasury, Sousa said.
Wilson said investment partners usually turn to payroll as the first place to find savings.
“Optimize and maximize — they’re code words for bodies out the door,” Wilson said. “So if I was an LCBO employee, I’d be worried about my job because whether it’s a pension fund, a banker or somebody else that becomes the government’s partner, they’re going to look for efficiencies.
“(Sousa) shouldn’t be using these code words. He should be honest with the people of Ontario and with these employees whose jobs are on the line and tell them what he’s up to,” Wilson said.
The government has an obligation to ensure that crown corporations deliver the best possible return to the people of Ontario, and the public interest will be safeguarded throughout this process, Sousa said.
Asked if the panel would look at contracting out some work currently carried out by these agencies, Sousa said everything was under consideration.
“There are dividends that come from the LCBO, OLG, Hydro One, OPG,” Sousa said. “We know that, through some of the other work that has been done in other jurisdictions, like the U.K and Australia, that they have been able to nurture even greater value from those corporations that they have in their hold. We want to do the same for the benefit of the taxpayers.”
The Liberal government will not repeat the mistake of the previous PC government, which leased out Hwy. 407 to a private interest, forsaking a long-term revenue stream, he said.
“That issue with the 407 is costing taxpayers about one billion dollars in lost revenues every year,” Sousa said.
The Ontario government has pledged to balance the books by 2017-18, in part with improved profits from public assets.
One day after the re-release of the Ontario budget, Dominion Bond Rating Service confirmed Tuesday that the province’s credit rating remains stable but it questioned whether the government has the “fortitude” to make the difficult decisions needed to meet its fiscal targets.