Thursday, December 13, 2012

Liberals pondered liquor store privatization

One of the biggest provincial stories of 2012 was the BC Liberals' controversial, aborted attempt to privatize the Liquor Distribution Branch's warehousing and distribution.

There was no business plan and no formal industry consultation. There was plenty of intrigue, because BC Liberal backroom boy and BC Rail adviser Patrick Kinsella was lobbying for Exel Logistics. The government did its best to wrap the deal in a shroud of secrecy. We still don't know precisely how and why it was kiboshed before the shortlisted bidders could make their final presentations.

But the government didn't count on me and my li'l library of #LiquorLeaks shining some much-needed light on the specious process. Thanks, also, to good ol' fashioned brown paper envelopes and the documents inside. (I'm not finished yet. Far from it.)

So, what's the latest, you say?

Remember when the government released Treasury Board and Cabinet reports in late May? They were so heavily censored that the only information visible had been cut-and-pasted from already published service plans and financial reports. I appealed and pressure from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner caused the government to uncensor portions of those reports. I'm not satisfied yet, but I am happy to report what the government was hiding from you.

Specifically, that the government was studying the sale of its chain of 197 B.C. Liquor Stores, along with the LDB logistics! I revealed this in Business in Vancouver on Dec. 13. The documents are below, which indicate anticipated opposition from the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union was the biggest obstacle.

The government opted to keep the stores, but tried to sell the warehouses and distribution. Then, on Sept. 27, it agreed to a new two-year deal with the BCGEU that included a moratorium on any LDB privatization. This happened after liquor minister Rich Coleman spent six months banging the drum for a private warehouser and distributor to come along and help government save money (despite industry players warning that higher prices would be the outcome).

Cabinet & Treasury Board documents recommending privatization of liquor distribution in British Columbi...

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