From drinking to gambling: New chairs at LCBO, OLG

Jul 18, 2013

QP Briefing

By Ashley Csanady, QP Briefing

A seasoned business and legal expert may soon take over as chair of the LCBO, as the man currently in charge of that board heads to the OLG.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa has tapped Edward Waitzer to take over as chair of the LCBO, as he shuffles Philip Olsson from that post to the OLG, where he’ll take over for ousted chair Paul Godfrey. Sousa made the nominations official in an announcement Thursday morning, but both men need to be confirmed by the standing committee on government agencies before they take the gavel.

That committee has a meeting scheduled for August 14, but it has yet to determine whether it will be considering the two proposed appointments at that time. While most committees are unable to meet over the summer (largely because the three house leaders couldn’t reach a deal before the House rose to allow them to sit) government agencies has a special mandate  allowing it to sit up to three times a month of its own volition. Should that meeting not consider the two intended appointments, then it’s unlikely Waitzer or Olsson will be confirmed until well into the fall.

Chairs of Crown corporations can have a varying degree of sway over the company’s operations. Godfrey, for example, took  a very public and personal role in pushing for change, such as OLG modernization and a Toronto casino. Others serve as behind the scenes moderators, which may be more Olsson’s style.

Olsson has quietly helped oversee the LCBO’s own modernization and the sweeping expansion of its retail operations. Glitzy big-box stores now decorate suburban street corners as slick, downtown stores with recent facelifts glitter near landmarks such as the St. Lawrence Market and inside Maple Leaf Gardens.

Olsson has been at (or near) the helm of the ship throughout much of that transformation, first joining the LCBO Board in 2004 as vice chair before becoming acting chair and CEO in February 2006, upon long-time chair and CEO Andrew Brandt’s resignation. Olsson was later appointed chair for a five-year term that ended in March 2012.

It seems the government is hoping to leverage that consumer-oriented success at the OLG, where its modernization efforts are in limbo after Godfrey’s departure and the failure of a downtown Toronto casino proposal. Perhaps Sousa and Premier Kathleen Wynne are hoping he can also leverage that experience to better incorporate horse-racing back into the OLG, an industry that’s in much need of a more customer-oriented focus.

Olsson’s said to be media shy, and he turned down several requests for interviews Thursday, postponing his debut as OLG chair until he’s actually been confirmed. He’s also said to be a genuinely nice guy.

Greg Hamara, with OPSEU, said Olsson was always “very accommodating” to his members and made time for face-to-face meetings at least one a year.

Waitzer was equally shy to jump the gun on his confirmation, politely declining a request by email until he’s been officially hired and briefed. One colleague was quick to sing his praises.

“Ed Waitzer is an excellent choice for the LCBO,” wrote Poonam Puri in an email. She’s been co-director of the Hennick Centre for Business and Law at Osgoode Hall alongside Waitzer for the past five years.

“He has tremendous business acumen and outstanding governance experience. His unique blend of public and private sector experience will serve the organization extremely well,” she wrote.

Waitzer has balanced academic and financial interests throughout his career, which has taken him from a post as vice-president of the Toronto Stock Exchange to a stint as chair of the Ontario Securities Commission. He’s written extensively about corporate social responsibility and boards, directors and shareholders competing interests and legal obligations.

He recently co-authored a chapter titled “Good Corporate Citizen” in the book, The Next Generation of Responsible Investing, in which he parses the legal ramifications for directors of two Supreme Court of Canada decisions. He’s also written about the need to simply some financial law and the pros and cons of a national securities regulator.

The Investor Responsibility Research Centre Institute honoured him in June with an award for best research on portfolio theory for his paper, titled “The Public Fiduciary: Emerging Themes in Canadian Fiduciary Law for Pension Trustees.”

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