NB Liquor sale a possibility: new president

Incoming NB Liquor president Daniel Allain says he'll consider selling off the Crown corporation.

The new president of NB Liquor said he'll look at selling off the Crown corporation. 

Daniel Allain was appointed to the position Thursday by new Premier David Alward and his first day on the job is Monday.

New Brunswick Premier David Alward, left, appointed Daniel Allain, right, to the key position of president and chief executive officer of NB Liquor. (CBC)

Allain said the corporation is well run and profitable and that employees do a good job. But given New Brunswick's $749-million deficit, he'll look at whether privatizing it makes sense.

"All the innovative ways are on the table. My mandate is pretty specific, that we come up with a plan," he said Friday. 

"I think everything is on the table."

Allain said another possibility is regional collaboration with a single liquor corporation for the three Maritime provinces, similar to the way the Atlantic Lottery Corporation runs now.

Fredericton-based NB Liquor oversees all alcohol sales and distribution in the province and contributes about $150-million in profits annually to the province through 118 outlets staffed by 395 full-time employees.

NB Liquor's sales in fiscal 2008-09 were $394.8 million, up four per cent from the previous year.

Alward said he's given Allain full rein to explore options to shake up the liquor corporation.

"The fact I've given a very specific timeline to examine new business models for NB Liquor, including governance, going forward should send a very strong message of the seriousness that I take in this role in ensuring our Crown corporations are effectively managed and are profitable because they are owned by the shareholder, New Brunswickers," Alward said.

New Brunswick has been in charge of liquor in the province since the New Brunswick Liquor Control Board was created in 1927 after prohibition.

NB Liquor has existed in its current form since 1976, when sales and liquor control were separated. 

Across Canada, only Alberta has full privatization.

Privatization endorsed

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is applauding Allain's musings about selling New Brunswick's liquor corporation.

Kevin Lacey, the federation's Atlantic director, said the Crown corporation should be privatized.

"Privatizing NB Liquor would remove political inference that has hampered this agency over the last decade," Lacey said

"Privatization means better choice for consumers, better stores and in the end it will be better for the NB economy."

Lacey said another reform the New Brunswick government should examine is ending partisan appointments to the top positions at Crown corporations.

"David Alward said he wanted to do things differently. He should start by ending political appointments to Crown corporations and public agencies," Lacey said.

"These jobs should be put up for public competition and the best person for the job should be hired, no matter what their politics are."

Co-president of election campaign

The New Brunswick premier said at a news conference on Friday that part of Allain's task will be to review how NB Liquor's future presidents are selected.

Allain was the co-president of Alward's successful election campaign. He also served as an executive assistant to former premier Bernard Lord.

Allain unsuccessfully ran for the federal Conservatives in the Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe riding in the 2008 election.

Alward said Allain's political past should not be held against him.

"I've seen him work both in the public sector and in the private sector. I've also seen him manage a very effective campaign. And I know the abilities to get the job done," Alward said.

"The fact that he has effectively managed a campaign shouldn't be a deterrent going forward to do the work that I've given him."

Allain said he also plans to ask questions about a secret report on executive compensation.

Earlier this month, the Crown corporation refused to release the internal report on NB Liquor's compensation packages for executives.

Allain said he doesn't approve of witholding information.

"New Brunswickers own NB Liquor right now, so the owners should have access to transparency. That's one of the fundamental beliefs that this government has and we're certainly going to be doing that."

However, Allain would not commit to releasing the report.

He said his first priority is to make sure any compensation changes were proper and were done according to the rules.