Premier Kathleen Wynne has quietly re-appointed the man behind booze in supermarkets and the Hydro One sell-off as her unpaid privatization guru.
Ed Clark, the former TD Bank CEO, was given cabinet approval earlier this month to serve as the premier’s business advisor until March 31, 2018.
That’s according to an order in council dated Feb. 2 and filed Feb. 17.
Clark, a Bay Street titan and public policy wonk, is by far the most influential volunteer in Ontario politics.
He was the key architect of the blueprint updating the province’s liquor laws that harkened back to the end of Prohibition in 1927.
Thanks to his efforts, beer, wine, and cider is on many supermarket shelves and will be available at hundreds more outlets by 2025.
But that meant effectively breaking the government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario and private Beer Store duopoly that controlled one of the world’s most lucrative booze markets.
More controversially, Clark also recommended the sale of 60 per cent of Hydro One, the provincial electricity transmitter, which will generate $9 billion.
Of that, $5 billion will clear the utility’s debt and the remaining $4 billion of the share offering’s proceeds will help bankroll new public transit, roads and bridges.
Both Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath oppose the majority sale of Hydro One, warning it could lead to higher electricity rates.
Clark has countered that, saying a better run, more efficient company could actually find savings that would be passed along to ratepayers.
The business czar was also called upon last fall to examine eHealth Ontario, the province’s oft-troubled electronic health records agency.
He concluded it has provided “significantly” more than $5.7 billion in value to the health-care system over the past decade, but can be improved.
In a 48-page report, Clark said when he was running TD Bank, they had 23 million customers across North America and were able to provide safe and secure access while protecting privacy.
“The technical issues of running such a system and running a health-care data system are not so different. The people and organizational issues certainly are,” he noted.
But Clark insisted government-run information technology projects are not necessarily worse than those in the private sector.
“I’m not so sure that governments are so terrible at it. The fact is that you don’t get to hear about all the mistakes that the private sector makes on their projects and the private sector has a different attitude to mistakes,” he said in November.
“In Silicon Valley, they celebrate when projects go bad because they view it as a huge learning experience, whereas in government you then have an inquiry and the whole system goes quiet and says ‘Oh my God, let’s take the most conservative approach.’”
Clark’s conclusions led Health Minister Eric Hoskins to order a revamp for eHealth to help doctors and nurses improve service for patients.
Currently, he is focused on helping Wynne find ways to reduce red tape by cutting back on the regulatory burden facing businesses in Ontario.
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