Straight Talk
EDITORIAL - Hudak should privatize, carefully

PC Leader Tim Hudak addresses reporters on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 outside the Liquor Control Broad of Ontario (LCBO) on Lansdowne St. in Peterborough.



We agree with Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak that gambling and boozing aren't core functions of the Ontario government.

And that just because the government runs them - through the OLG and LCBO - is no guarantee they'll be run well.

For example, a 2011 report by the Ontario Auditor General found the LCBO doesn't even use its huge buying power to maximize its return on investment to taxpayers.

And a 2007 report by the Ontario Ombudsman, along with other independent investigations, revealed the OLG had turned a blind eye as hundreds of millions of dollars in lottery winnings were fraudulently paid out to OLG insiders.

While the OLG has since cleaned up its act, every government service needs to be audited, asking three basic questions.

First, is it a service the government should provide?

Second, if it is, is the government providing it in the most efficient way possible?

Third, if it isn't, could the private sector do a better job, given that the major added expense when the public sector is involved is typically the cost of unionized labour?

Far too often, governments become involved in providing services that are not part of their core function. Or, they refuse to consider how best to deliver them.

It's certainly appropriate for Hudak to raise these issues.

After all, these days, the scandal-plagued Dalton McGuinty government is far more concerned with picking a new leader and saving its political hide, than governing.

That said, we don't support privatizing the LCBO, OLG, or anything else, simply to make an ideological point.

Hudak should keep in mind the last Tory government in Ontario that tried to do that with electricity generation, promising it would lead to lower hydro rates.

Instead, it led to the exact opposite - rates skyrocketed amid rampant Tory patronage and the Conservatives, faced with rising public fury, abandoned the scheme, leaving a financial disaster in their wake.

The acid test when considering the privatization of any government service is whether taxpayers will benefit.

If Hudak wants to privatize the OLG and LCBO, he needs to explain, clearly, how he will replace the billions of dollars of revenue they generate for the government every year.

Without raising taxes, or holding a fire sale.

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