Margaret MacDiarmid, minister of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government was quoted in the Vancouver Sun on July 12 as follows:
“As I have said before with respect to the distribution and warehousing of liquor if we don’t find that there are savings for taxpayers, if it is not a good deal for British Columbians, we simply won’t be going ahead with this.”
After expressing my concerns about privatization to Rich Coleman, minister of Energy and Mines and minister responsible for housing, I received this reply telling me something different:
“In order to proceed, government must be satisfied that British Columbia taxpayers will benefit from having a private sector service provider warehouse and distribute liquor in the province.”
There is plenty of room here for chicanery in the guise of good business practice; what “satisfies” the government often appears driven by other motives than the public good.
Semantics aside, I would like MacDiarmid’s assurance that the plan to privatize the Liquor Distribution Branch will be abandoned if they do not find that there are savings for taxpayers.
I don’t mean saving a few minutes in a parking lot or the odd nickel on a bottle of wine, or the short-sighted economy of selling off public assets without a business plan and without consulting the industry or the public.
I especially don’t want to hear that relinquishing the current profitability of LDB is somehow a good deal for the citizens who own it.
As Minister of Labour, MacDiarmid would likely be troubled most by the downgrade of LDB employees to minimum-wage, part-time work and consequent damage to the B.C. economy; but as she has expressed a concern for taxpayers, I would like to know that her government will protect this public asset from private profiteers.