Ed Clark to be named new LCBO chair ahead of marijuana sales launch

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne will name her go-to business advisor as the new chairman of the LCBO today, with the agency poised to oversee the retailing of cannabis in the province.

Government, industry sources tell CBC News that appointment will be announced Thursday

CBC News has learned that Premier Kathleen Wynne will name Ed Clark, left, to be the new chair of the LCBO board, as the agency prepares to oversee the government's marijuana sales regime. (Marta Iwanek/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's go-to business adviser will be named the new chairman of the LCBO Thursday, with the agency poised to oversee the retailing of cannabis in the province.

CBC News has learned that Ed Clark is to be nominated as chair of the LCBO's board of directors. Clark spent 12 years as president and CEO of TD Bank Group and has more recently been central to some of the Wynne's government's biggest policy decisions. 

A panel led by Clark advised the Liberals to privatize Hydro One, only months after initially recommending keeping the transmission utility in the government's hands. Clark's panel also provided the report that led to the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores

Clark was appointed as the premier's business adviser in June 2015. He is currently leading Ontario's bid to woo Amazon's new headquarters to the province. A government source said Clark will retain both roles and his compensation as LCBO chair will be a symbolic $1 a year. 

The LCBO board supervises the agency's business affairs and draws up its strategic plan. Chairing that will be Clark's role, while day-to-day operations are managed by the agency's president and CEO.

Ed Clark is already serving as the premier's business adviser and chaired Wynne's advisory council on government assets. He is the former president and CEO of TD Bank Group. (Marta Iwanek/The Canadian Press)

The post means that Clark will have a strategic planning role in the new Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., the marijuana sales agency that will be run as a subsidiary of the LCBO. The agency will be the sole legal retailer of recreational marijuana in the province. It is to have 40 storefronts and an online sales system open by July 1, when pot is to be legalized across Canada. 

In 2014, Clark criticized the LCBO for failing to use its buying power (as one of the largest alcohol retailers in the world) to negotiate the best possible prices from suppliers. He called the agency "a tax man dressed in retailer's clothing."

Clark made the comments in his role as chair of the premier's advisory council on government assets. The council's ensuing report laid the policy groundwork for the government to allow supermarkets to sell beer and wine.

Clark takes over in the LCBO boardroom from Penny Lipsett, who has served as acting chair since last April. She replaced Bonnie Brooks, a former president, CEO and director at Hudson's Bay Company, who spent less than a year as LCBO chair before resigning. 

LCBO board members are appointed by cabinet, based on the recommendation of the premier and finance minister.