TORONTO, Dec. 21, 2012 /CNW/ - Five of the seven candidates to succeed
Premier Dalton McGuinty as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and
Premier have made videotaped statements undertaking to safeguard the
future of the province's imperiled horse racing and breeding industry.
The future of the industry, and of the 55,000 full-time and part-time
jobs that it provides primarily in rural Ontario, has been thrown into
question by the McGuinty government's abrupt decision earlier this year
to withdraw slot machines from the province's racetracks, ending a
successful partnership that has helped to financially sustain the
industry while providing revenues to the Ontario government.
"It's very encouraging that so far five of the seven people who have a
chance to lead the Ontario Liberal Party and become Premier starting in
January are publicly showing their understanding of how important the
horse racing and breeding industry is to the lives of hard-working
people in rural Ontario," says Racing Future president and founder
Dennis Mills, a Toronto business executive and former long-serving
Liberal Member of Parliament who is spearheading efforts to raise
public awareness of the issue, particularly in urban areas.
At an all-candidates' round table on rural issues held in Avonmore,
Ontario on December 18, Racing Future invited the six attending
leadership candidates - all except Harinder Takhar who was not present
- to make a videotaped statement of their respective views about the
future of the successful partnership between the horse racing and
breeding racing and OLG that had existed before the McGuinty government
announced its end. The following are the key points that they made in
their respective statements.
Charles Sousa: "The industry is critical to Ontario, so obviously critical to many
families. We're one of the best horse breeding industries anywhere in
the world. It also makes Ontario even that much more special when we
have such an important horse racing and breeding industry. It's also
nice that it energizes communities all over the province. For that
reason, it's important that we continue to make the horse racing
industry sustainable, to make the horse breeding industry sustainable….
We need to find ways to make it work. I look forward to doing that."
Gerard Kennedy: "I think that this one of the decisions that the government's made
that it has to not just review, because it has been doing that, but
understand that it came about in a manner that can't be the best
outcome and there has to be a way of us making decisions with
communities with full outlook in terms of what the impacts are going to
be and how we mitigate the consequences. And so I think that there's a
better accommodation to be made…. I fully support that there be a
better outcome than the one that seemed to be imminent with the
decision to remove the revenue from slots from the racetracks. I want
to see that there is a viable industry. I want to see that the
government participates in a better transition than we've already
talked about.. As Premier, I will take an interest in that."
Glen Murray: "I think the entire strategy with Ontario Lottery and Gaming has to be
rethought both in rural and urban areas. There are some real problems,
I think, with some of the directions that we're going in, and some of
it has negative impacts both on the rural economy and on the horse
industry….. I think it's time that we press the pause button and we
really go back and look at the mathematics on this. I've met with
Racing Future, Dennis Mills sat down with me, and I've been becoming
increasingly convinced that something has to be done."
Eric Hoskins: "Not only [do] I affirm just how important our horse racing and horse
breeding sector is to Ontario's economy, to Ontario's social fabric… we
need to commit to going forward. I commit to doing this in the first 60
days of my mandate as Premier, in fact, because I understand the
urgency. With the decisions that have been made in the past, we really
need to work on this as a matter of top priority. So I commit in the
first 60 days of being Premier that I would review the sector, ensure
that it becomes and is a full part of Ontario's gambling strategy…. and
work toward in that 60-day review creating a sustainable horse racing
sector and horse breeding sector that recognizes its economic
contribution to this province…. There needs to be, in any jurisdiction
around the world that has a vibrant horse racing sector … permanent
partnership and permanent support from its government."
Kathleen Wynne: "I believe that this has been a real trauma for the rural communities
and for the horse racing industry, and so my commitment is to work with
the community so that we have a sustainable horse racing industry based
on the report of the transition panel and I think that that's the
starting point for this discussion. I've also committed to taking on
the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as my own as
Premier for up to a year because I think that this issue and others in
rural Ontario need the focus of the Premier."
Sandra Pupatello, leaving the round table early, declined to make a
videotaped statement, saying that she was late for a meeting. She
referred us to her rural platform which, in reference to horse racing,
states that she "support[s] the recommendations of the Horse Racing
Industry Transition Panel."
A full video of the candidates' statements on the future of the Ontario
horse racing and breeding industry can be seen on the Racing Future
website, http://www.racingfuture.com/ .
Meanwhile, the Ontario NDP has taken virtually the same position as
Racing Future on the McGuinty government's plan to terminate the slot
machine partnership with Ontario racetracks. In a statement by the
party's economic development critic, Essex MPP Taras Natyshak,
(published in full at www.racingfuture.com) the NDP says that "the government should immediately freeze the
removal of slot machines from racetracks across Ontario. They should
continue the SARP program until 2014, so that the horse-racing industry
can continue to operate while the government works directly with the
industry to find a real solution to this crisis, to guarantee the
long-term viability of the industry."
Natyshak says on behalf of the NDP in the statement: The McGuinty Liberals' decision to end the slots-at-racetracks
program (SARP), without any consultation or negotiation, has sent the
horse-racing industry reeling. The future existence of the industry in
Ontario is in jeopardy. This once-world-class and vibrant industry
which contributes a total of $1.5 billion in wages and salaries to
Ontario's economy has since taken quite a hit. We've already seen
almost 1,000 jobs lost and 50,000 more jobs are on the line. On top of
the economic and jobs impacts, owners are left with no choice by to put
down some of their race horses. They've dropped in value so much that
owners can no longer afford to carry the costs of feeding
and maintaining them."
Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak, on the other
hand, proposes to privatize OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming
Gambling is a legitimate activity, but the government of Ontario should
not be in the business of actively promoting it to help balance the
budget. There is an inherent contradiction in the government being the
regulator and also the day-to-day operator. We should move to wind down
the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, getting government out of
the gambling business.
Private operators are not interested in meeting public policy
objectives: privatizing the OLG is a move that would leave the horse
racing and breeding industry entirely at the mercy of private
SOURCE: Racing Future Inc.
For further information:
Dennis Mills, 416-587-1716 or visit us at RacingFuture.com.