Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Merged MLCC, Lotteries on track to save millions

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THE merger of the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission and Manitoba Lotteries is on pace to save taxpayers about $3 million annually, even though full consolidation of the two Crowns is months, if not years, away.

The new Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation is still going through growing pains more than a year after the merger was announced by the Selinger government, according to the merged Crown corporation's first annual report released Monday.

The report outlines the "complex task" of blending a workforce of more than 3,000 people department by department. The change has seen a consolidated board of directors and a shuffling of senior managers, but the annual report says the "significant transition" will come over the next few months as the merger process continues to look for efficiencies as promoted by the government.

"The key for me is that not only do we save money on behalf of the taxpayer, but we redirect it back into the front lines of health care and education," Finance Minister Stan Struthers said Monday. "We need to reduce costs, we need to become as efficient as possible in delivery of services, but that money has to be reinvested into the front lines."

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The annual report also said for 2012-13, the province saw a 13.2 per cent drop in revenue from Manitoba Lotteries, or $45.4 million less than the year before. The allocation to the government was $297.5 million compared with $342.9 million the year before.

Lotteries blames the drop on lower video lottery terminal (VLT) and casino revenue. The province said in May it is expanding the number of VLTs in Manitoba to bring in an extra $18 million a year to the government's coffers.

The province also released its 2012-13 year-end financial results Monday and its first-quarter report (April to June) for the current fiscal year.

Struthers said the year-end results show the government posted a "modest" improvement of $3 million for a year-end summary deficit of $580 million.

The first-quarter report shows the forecasted summary deficit ending March 31, 2014, will be $518 million, as first released in the April budget.

Premier Greg Selinger said a year ago the target for getting Manitoba out of the red is now the 2016-17 fiscal year, two years longer than the NDP promised as the date to balance the province's books.

The July 1 one-point increase to the provincial sales tax and its impact on the books won't be reflected until the next quarterly report, likely to be released near the end of the calendar year.

Progressive Conservative finance critic Myrna Driedger said the numbers show the NDP isn't getting any closer to reducing its deficit, specifically in reducing spending in core government departments such as health, education and justice. "The NDP have become like a giant vacuum cleaner and they're sucking every cent out of every pocket of every Manitoban," she said. "And they still can't control, or won't control, their spending."

The Tories say the core government deficit for 2012-13 was $689 million before federal transfer payments were applied to lower it.

"I don't see some serious heavy lifting by this government in terms of what they need to do to better control their own spending," Driedger said.

Struthers also said the year-end numbers show the net debt-to-GDP ratio improved to 26.8 per cent, an improvement over the third-quarter forecast of 27.1 per cent and down significantly from the 32.9 per cent it was in 1999-2000; and that debt servicing costs declined to 6.1 cents on the dollar, an improvement over the 2012 budget estimate of 6.2 cents on the dollar, and more than 50 per cent lower than the 13.2 cents on the dollar it was in 1999-2000.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2013 A6

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