04/16/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 06/16/2015 01:12 EDT

Report looking at booze retail, possible asset sales in Ontario released today

TORONTO - Ontarians will find out today how the government plans to liberalize the way beer is sold, but Premier Kathleen Wynne says updating the retail system for wine will have to wait a while.Wynne says changing the way the foreign-owned Beer Store operates is the "entry point to levelling the playing field and creating more convenience and more fairness," especially for Ontario's craft brewers.More will be known later today when the recommendations from a government-appointed panel on the possible sale of Crown corporations and the modernization of liquor laws are released.Former TD Bank CEO Ed Clark headed the advisory group that looked at Crown assets such as Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One and the Liquor Control Board to find ways to maximize their value.In an interim report, Clark rejected a sale of the LCBO, but proposed major changes to the retail system to give consumers more access, especially to beer.He wants the foreign-own Beer Store to pay a fee for its virtual monopoly on 80 per cent of beer sales, so Ontario taxpayers get a "fair share" of its profits.Wynne said she wants consumers to have more access to beers from Ontario's craft brewers, who complain the Beer Store makes it difficult — and expensive — to list their products in its 448 retail outlets.The government insists any money raised from asset sales, such as a partial sale of Hydro One, would go to help pay for $130 billion in infrastructure and public transit projects over the next decade, not to pay down the $10.9-billion budget deficit."Remember, the reason we're doing this is because we have made a commitment to invest in infrastructure," Wynne said.The opposition parties warn any sale of Hydro One would drive up electricity rates, and say even the Liberals opposed a sale of the transmission utility as a "disaster for consumers" when the Tories tried to privatize it in 2002."The Liberal government, the premier, is planning to sell off your Hydro One," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told the legislature. "There are no do-overs. Hydro One — your Hydro One — will be gone forever. It's a bad deal for every single Ontarian."The Progressive Conservatives aren't opposed to asset sales to bring in private-sector investment to make a company more efficient, but said that's not why the Liberals are trying to sell Hydro One."Their motive is wrong," said interim PC Leader Jim Wilson. "Their motive is to do a tax grab to try to patch up their 12 years of fiscal mismanagement."Wynne insisted the government would retain majority ownership in case of any partial sales of Crown corporations, and would make sure consumers are protected against price hikes. The Liberals opposed a sale of Hydro One when they were in opposition, but the premier said they are taking a much different approach than the previous Tory government did in 2002."Retaining an ownership share in Hydro One is very important to us," said Wynne. "Retaining regulatory control and price control, those are foundational in the discussion."Follow @CPnewsboy on Twitter