Ont. to sell LCBO HQ, takes aim at horseracing funds

The Ontario government’s deficit-cutting measures will now include the sale of the Crown-owned liquor marketer’s headquarters and, possibly, deep cuts to its subsidies for the horseracing sector.

Provincial Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said Monday the government will sell the head office of LCBO and redevelop the land where the building now sits.

LCBO’s office, at 55 Lake Shore Blvd. E. on the edge of Toronto’s Harbourfront district, is on "some of the most valuable, under-developed real estate in Canada," the province said.

The head office building and large warehouse at the site date back to 1954. LCBO’s "flagship store," which is on the same site, would be redeveloped but the store would remain "in the vicinity," the province said.

LCBO "will realize ongoing savings and after the land is sold and a new, modern facility is built, it is expected to generate well over $200 million for taxpayers," the province said.

LCBO, which bills itself as "one of the world’s largest buyers and retailers of beverage alcohol," booked sales of $4.58 billion in fiscal 2010-11.

"Will evaluate"

While the province did not commit Monday to specific cuts in support for horseracing, it noted Ontario taxpayers have, since 1998, supported horseracing with annual subsidies of up to $345 million.

"The province will evaluate that subsidy given the need to continue to invest in health care and education," the government said.

More specifically, the province noted that at 17 locations, Ontario "has more racetracks and provides more public funding than any other place in North America."

The current cost of the province’s subsidy to the sector "would pay for over 27,800 hip or knee replacement surgeries or provide over nine million hours of home care," the government said.

The LCBO land sale and other moves announced Monday are expected to help the province eliminate its deficit by 2017-18, Duncan said.

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