Former TD president to become new LCBO Chair ahead of pot legalization
By: Julie Arounlasy
Premier Kathleen Wynne named former president and CEO of TD Bank Group, Ed Clark, as the new chairman of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) Thursday as the agency prepares to oversee the sales of marijuana in the province.
Clark spent 12 years at TD Bank and has been serving as Wynne’s unpaid business advisor since June 2015.
He is also currently leading Ontario’s bid to persuade Amazon to move its new headquarters to the province.
Clark will be keeping both roles and has asked that his salary as the new LCBO Chair be set at a symbolic $1 a year. He will have a strategic planning role in the new Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., the marijuana sales agency that will be run as a sub-branch of the LCBO.
The agency will be the only legal market of recreational pot in the province. There will be 40 storefronts and an online sales system open by July 1, when weed is expected to be legalized across the country.
“With Ed’s leadership and the Council’s support, we were able to implement many groundbreaking initiatives including the launch of our ecommerce platform, the expansion of our wholesale business with the introduction of wine, beer and cider into grocery stores and the launch of our Products of the World program,” said LCBO President & CEO, George Soleas, in a statement.
“We look forward to continued collaboration with Ed and the Board as we further implement our ambitious plan to provide a seamless, best-in-class, customer-centric experience across all of our platforms.”
Marek (Mark) Stupak, founder of Toronto medical marijuana dispensary Social Collective, said the government’s regulation of pot will have no impact on his dispensary or the black market.
“All of the dispensaries have moved online and are shipping their pot via private couriers or Canada Post so I fail to understand how the government will actually succeed in killing the black market,” he said.
“Because we as a black market have the ability to lower our prices anytime we wish, we have that advantage over the government.
“It’s a system that’s guaranteed to fail because people are very sensitive about pot prices and there’s this magical price line of pot being $10 per gram. Once you start selling above the price line, you’re losing customers.”
In 2014, when Clark was chair of the premier’s advisory council on government assets, he also criticized the LCBO and said it failed to negotiate the best possible prices from suppliers.
He called the agency “a tax man dressed in retailer’s clothing.” Clark then led a panel that issued the report that led to the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores.
“I am delighted to be selected as the next Chair of the LCBO,” Clark said in a statement Thursday.
“Having recommended three years ago that it remain publicly owned, I am enthusiastic for the chance to help further its customer-friendly focus and oversee its growth and development, as well as help carefully manage the roll-out of the new standalone cannabis stores.”
He will be replacing Penny Lipsett, who has served as acting chair for the LCBO since last April. She replaced Bonnie Brooks, who spent less than a year as LCBO chair before stepping down from the position.
LCBO board members are appointed by cabinet, based on the recommendation of the premier and finance minister.