It looks like some BIG changes are coming down the pipeline in Ontario as the Liberal government will sell off a huge piece of Hydro One and switch up the beer sales regulations in an effort to raise money for other things like infrastructure and transit.
The sale of Hydro One alone (about 60% of it) is expected to raise about 4 billion dollars .
Premier Kathleen Wynne said despite the sell-off of Hydro One, Ontario will remain its largest shareholder, with no other shareholder allowed to control more than 10 per cent of the company.
The province will also sell off Hydro One Brampton and merge it with three other local electricity companies, covering Hamilton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham, Barrie, and St. Catharines, creating the second largest hydro distributor in the province.
The opposition parties are expressing concerns that price increases will be inevitable with the change however. Even Premier Wynn who is stressing that the government will retain majority ownership says she can’t guarantee prices won’t jack.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it’s unbelievable that prices won’t “skyrocket.”
So now to beer…
It looks like this favourite Canadian beverage, which we have come accustomed to grabbing either at the LCBO or the Beer Store will see the following changes:
- A new beer tax will be added that will eventually reach one dollar per 24 pack of beers. Bestselling brands will not be allowed to increase prices for two years. After that, price increases will be capped to the rate of inflation. (This cash cow is expected to raise about $100 million)
- Up to 450 new retail locations authorized to sell beer in “urban population centres” across Ontario. The government says this is roughly equal to the number of Beer Store outlets in the province.
- Ontario craft beers will be expanded into Beer Store locations.
- 12-packs will be sold at LCBO stores (which were only at The Beer Store locations in the past).
- A new beer ombudsperson will be appointed
- The Beer Store will spend $100 million over four years, mostly to enhance the customer experience at its outlets.
- An expansion in the number of products available at the Beer Store.
The moves come ahead of the provincial budget, which is set to be released on April 23. What do you think? Is this beer issue just a smokescreen for the real issue which seems to be privatization of hydro?