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Manitoba Liberals want to nix new Liquor & Lotteries HQ

Manitoba Liberal Party Leader Rana Bokhari

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Manitoba Liberal Party Leader Rana Bokhari

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/10/2015 (1259 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s Liberals want to mothball plans to spend $74 million on a new Liquor & Lotteries headquarters, warning the Crown corporation not to proceed with the project so close to a provincial election.

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries is in the process of buying the Medical Arts Building on Kennedy Street as a prelude toward a renovation and expansion slated to begin in 2017. The Crown corporation said it will save $24 million during the next 20 years by consolidating five offices within a single downtown Winnipeg location.

Liquor & Lotteries made its intentions public Sept. 29. Two weeks later, Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said her party would cancel the project if it forms government in April.

“We know from history $75 million is just a bottom line. We know it will cost more than that,” Bokhari said Tuesday, calling the expenditure reckless.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/10/2015 (1259 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s Liberals want to mothball plans to spend $74 million on a new Liquor & Lotteries headquarters, warning the Crown corporation not to proceed with the project so close to a provincial election.

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries is in the process of buying the Medical Arts Building on Kennedy Street as a prelude toward a renovation and expansion slated to begin in 2017. The Crown corporation said it will save $24 million during the next 20 years by consolidating five offices within a single downtown Winnipeg location.

Liquor & Lotteries made its intentions public Sept. 29. Two weeks later, Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said her party would cancel the project if it forms government in April.

"We know from history $75 million is just a bottom line. We know it will cost more than that," Bokhari said Tuesday, calling the expenditure reckless.

"It’s interesting to me that six months from an election, they would move forward with this when I’m not sure we’d want to keep Liquor & Lotteries together."

In August, Bokhari pledged to reduce the cost of booze but declined to say how a Liberal government would do that. She said she will make specifics known in December, when her party’s review of Liquor & Lotteries will be complete.

Artist rendering of the new Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries building.

Artist rendering of the new Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries building.

Bokhari said privatization or some form of private-sector involvement remains on the table for her party, which holds a single seat in the legislature.

If the Liberals were able to vault over the NDP and Progressive Conservatives next spring and assume power, it’s unclear whether they could put the brakes on the new Liquor & Lotteries HQ. The purchase of the Medical Arts Building is slated to close in November.

"Liquor & Lotteries has committed to purchase the property at 233 Kennedy Street and will be moving forward with its redevelopment plans for the site," chief financial officer Tracy Graham said in a statement.

"As with the property purchase, once we have entered into contractual agreements with the architect and general contractor, Liquor & Lotteries will be bound to follow through on those contracts."

The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, have praised Liquor & Lotteries for exercising what opposition critic Ron Schuler described as apparent due diligence during the Crown corporation’s deliberations about a headquarters location.

On Tuesday, Schuler noted the Tories have no interest in privatizing liquor sales.

"Privatization is not on our agenda," he said in a statement. "Our focus will be to reverse the NDP broken promise on tax hikes on products, including beer and liquor."

In the past, the NDP has attempted to paint the Conservatives as bent on privatization. By refusing to entertain the concept when it comes to liquor sales, the Tories have inoculated themselves against such an attack, but opened up policy room for the Liberals, whose popularity was nearly on par with that of the NDP in the most recent Probe Research poll.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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