The Sh*t Has Hit the Fan
The shit really hit the fan on Thursday, splattering all over the BC Liberals and their plans to fast-track the sale of the LDB warehouses and warehouse distribution system.
NDP MLA, and my favourite BC politician at the moment, Shane Simpson, flung the poop when he dropped a bombshell, producing 39 pages of documents indicating that the BC Liberals, as recently as June 2011, had no plans to privatize liquor distribution. Yet weeks later, after then Solicitor General Shirley Bond was approached by Exel Logistics VP, Scott Lyons, the government had a change of heart. They decided to privatize, despite having no business case.
After Simpson released the documents accessed through a Freedom of Information request, a media frenzy erupted. I especially enjoyed Vaughn Palmer’s grilling of Labour Minister, Margaret MacDiarmid, on CKNW. MacDiarmid’s comment that “governments do change their minds”, is ridiculous under the circumstances. Consider that last June, LDB privatization was not on the table. But after the meeting with Lyons on August 25, privatization was alive and moving forward. It recalls BC Liberal claims that the HST “was not on their radar” prior to the 2011 election, yet weeks after being voted back into government, Gordon Campbell’s Liberals were ramming the hated tax down our throats.
At least one respected political pundit, retired journalist Harvey Oberfeld, believes that current government cabinet ministers could face criminal charges if they go through with the sale. Does the Liberal government really think the general public is that stupid?
Reporter, Bob Mackin, has been exposing the whole sordid LDB privatization mess with his series of blog posts hash tagged #liquorleaks on 2010 Gold Rush. In a post from May, Mackin released a document showing that although the provincial government did not have a plan to privatize the LDB, Exel Logistics did. Exel was actively trying to sell it to the Campbell-era Liberals in 2010. There is now proof that Exel’s lobbying of the Liberals goes back as far as 2005, and that Exel was attempting to help shape the government’s Request For Proposals (RFP) using Progressive Group lobbyists, Patrick Kinsella and Mark Jiles, both of whom have strong Liberal connections.
I can’t keep track of all that is happening now, as the story is so convoluted, but here is a good summing up from Vancouver Sun reporter, Jeff Lee. There are just too many of the same connected characters showing up for this whole affair to be on the up-and-up. Here are some of the major players and how they are linked:
- Exel Logistics VP Scott Lyons, who approached the BC Liberals to present this privatization plan, is the same Scott Lyons who was high up in the food chain in The Beer Store organization. The Beer Store is a retail chain owned by Labatt Brewing Company, Molson Coors Canada and Sleeman Breweries that dominates the Ontario beer market with an 85% market share.
- The Beer Store funneled well over $100,000 in political contributions to BC Liberal coffers since 2005, despite having no retail outlets in BC, which you can read about here and here.
- Exel Logistics hired the Progressive Group to help lobby the government on the privatization of the LDB.
- Progressive Group is owned by Patrick Kinsella, who has strong Liberal connections, having been an adviser to Christie Clark during her successful bid to become premier last year and Gordon Campbell’s campaign manager during the 2001 and 2005 elections. He was involved in the whole BC Rail debacle.
- Mark Jiles, a Progressive Group consultant, registered in 2010, along with Kinsella, to lobby Liberal cabinet ministers, including Rich Coleman, Shirley Bond and Pat Bell, on behalf of Exel Logistics “to develop a new liquor distribution system for the Province of BC”.
- Mark Jiles, according to his LinkedIn profile, was a sales consultant for Labatt Breweries of BC. Mr. Jiles is also no stranger to controversy when it comes to suspicious lobbying.
- Exel Logistics has run Alberta’s liquor distribution system since 1994. A recent post on onbeer.org highlights many problems associated with having a private monopoly running a provincial distribution system.
I hope these latest developments raise the public’s ire and motivate the people of BC to demand a halt to this process until the Liberals can produce evidence they are not just selling off public assets to appease big business, and rewarding long-time supporters and friends. If they can produce a business case and a cost-benefit analysis that demonstrates this move is in the best interest of British Colombians, then I say let them put those forth for the public and private sectors to assess. Then hold a referendum during the next election so that we have an actual say in what goes on in this province. Until that time, I hope the likes of Shane Simpson and Bob Mackin keep holding the Liberal feet to the fire. You would think that after the HST disaster, the Liberals would have learned.
~ originally published on the VanEast Beer Blog on July 14, 2012.