The Liberal government followed through Thursday on a years-old pledge to sell one of the jewels in its real estate portfolio, seeking bids for a parcel of land on the Toronto waterfront owned by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
"This 11-acre site is like a mini-downtown in and of itself," said Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid in a small park on the LCBO lands.
"This location is one of the most valuable properties in the downtown Toronto area, and has significantly appreciated in value over the years and many developers are interested in this site."
The previous Liberal government said in the 2012 budget that it would generate "well over $200 million" by selling the LCBO property.
The site includes the LCBO headquarters, a large warehouse, the agency's flagship liquor store on Queen's Quay, a parking lot and a park, but the government will no longer say how much money it expects to raise from the sale.
"I knew you were going to ask me that question so I purposely have not looked at any appraisals, so I can't even slip out an answer," said Duguid.
"You really don't know the true value until you put it on the market."
Duguid also wouldn't speculate on whether the sale of the LCBO land will add to the growing number of condominium towers springing up on the Toronto waterfront, and said developers would have to deal with a heritage designation on the site.
"I'm looking forward to getting this on the market with this (request for proposals) and hope by next summer we'll have our buyer and share with the public the price we were able to get for this property," he said.
The developers will have to provide a space in whatever project is built on the site for a new LCBO head office and a large liquor store.
"This site has been speculated about for a long time, so our expectation is there will be a lot of competition and that will help us get the highest and best price," said Duguid.
The New Democrats warned the LCBO sale is just the beginning of the Liberal's plans to sell billions of dollars worth of public assets.
"They plan to put $3.15 billion of our public assets on the auction block, putting (them) into the hands of private multinationals and Bay Street speculators," said NDP finance critic Catherine Fife.
The cash-strapped government wants to get the maximum value for its real estate holdings, and said it will use revenues from land sales for public transit projects, roads and bridges.
"We promise to use the money from this sale for key infrastructure projects through the new Trillium trust fund," said Duguid.
The government decided it would be better to put revenues from land sales into infrastructure projects instead of paying down the province's $289.3 billion debt or cutting the $12.5 billion deficit, added Duguid.
The Progressive Conservatives like the idea of asset sales, but said they don't trust the Liberals to spend the money on infrastructure projects.
"Quite frankly we're very concerned that this is more smoke and mirrors and this money will never make it into the Trillium trust, and that this is purely to help reduce the deficit," said PC finance critic Vic Fedeli.
"They're focusing on revenue rather than spending."
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