Asset management - Macleans.ca

Asset management

Is the government really going to sell the CBC, VIA?

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Asset managementBingo:

Opposition MPs are worried a Conservative plan to sell off government assets threatens Crown corporations like the CBC and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

— Ottawa Sun, Jan. 31 2009

The federal Department of Finance has flagged several prominent Crown corporations as “not self-sustaining,” including the CBC, VIA Rail and the National Arts Centre, and has identified them as entities that could be sold as part of the government’s asset review, newly released documents show.

— National Post, tonight

Now, don’t get too excited. Andrew Mayeda’s story is careful to point out that there is, as yet, no plan to put the NAC or the Corp on the block. He seems to have got his hands on a departmental survey of all saleable assets. And it’s less glamorous Crown properties that are listed above the blue-chip properties Andrew mentions in his lede. It’s entirely possible for the feds to reject a sale of these marquee assets, or indeed of any assets at all.

But Paul Dewar, the NDP MP who gets quoted in the Sun story above and has archived it on his website, is right. The feds are not only airily mulling an asset sale in the abstract, they’ve booked revenue from it in this budget year, and in succeeding years, to the tune of many billions of dollars in total sales. When Dewar quizzed Jim Flaherty about it three months ago, Flaherty was nonchalant in acknowledging, broadly, the premise of Dewar’s questions.

There are really only two possibilities. The government can sell billions of dollars worth of stuff, or its deficit can be billions of dollars higher.