OMAFRA Interim Report Released; OHRIA Issues Response
Published: August 24, 2012 1:50 pm ET
Last Comment: August 29, 2012 5:30 pm ET | 61 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments
On August 24, Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, released the following statement on the status of consultations being led by the horse racing transition panel.
"On June 7th, I announced that three former cabinet ministers -- Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen and John Wilkinson -- would lead consultations with the horse racing industry to help them transition from the Slots at Racetracks program to a more sustainable model.
I have received an interim report. The panel has concluded the government made the right decision to end the Slots at Racetracks program -- a program that cost taxpayers $345 million a year. The panel said it would be a mistake to reinstate the program -- going so far as to call it 'poor public policy.'
The panel also advises that a viable horse racing industry requires ongoing funding to maintain attractive purses, sustain tracks, support breeding and grow a robust betting system.
Our government committed $50 million over the next three years to help transition the industry. The panel believes that a greater investment is required.
Our government is focused on balancing its budget while protecting vital services that families rely on, like health care and education. That's why any public transitional investment in the horse racing industry must include clear public-interest principles of fiscal accountability, transparency, a renewed focus on the consumer and a business case showing that each public dollar invested is returned to the province through tax revenues. This means the industry needs to display financial transparency.
The government has asked the panel to consult further with the industry to determine its willingness to work together in such a way that recognizes the public interest and the current fiscal climate.
I expect to receive a final report no later than the end of September."
To read the interim report, click the following link: Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel
Interim Report - August 17, 2012.
On Friday afternoon, OHRIA issued the following response to the report.
In June 2012, after weeks of pressure from OHRIA and with the help of Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Ted McMeekin, the OMAFRA panel was assembled by the Liberal Government. The panel met with or received submissions from numerous organizations, associations and individuals within the horse racing and breeding industry and has now presented a report back to Minister McMeekin.
The OHRIA board has reviewed the OMAFRA panel’s report and OHRIA is appreciative of the effort of the OMAFRA panel for providing a report which has provided a path forward for the industry.
OHRIA would like to highlight the many positive statements contained in the OMAFRA panel’s report which include:
- the horse racing and breeding industry is worth saving
- the horse racing and breeding industry is a valuable contributor to Ontario’s economy ($2 - $2.5 billion gross expenditures)
- the horse racing and breeding industry is worthy of government investment
- the horse racing and breeding industry is a valuable social, cultural and community asset
The report further states that, given the significant public good derived from horse racing, the province should pursue a gaming strategy that includes horse racing and breeding as a key component based on the following assessments:
- Without slot revenue or a new revenue stream horse racing in Ontario will cease to exist after March 31, 2013
- Ontario’s horse racing and breed industry is labour intensive. There are 20,000 to 30,000 full time equivalent jobs which translates into employment for thousands more
- Horse racing and breeding generates jobs, export and tax revenue
- $50 million over three years is insufficient to build a bridge to sustainability.
- If the industry were to shut down, the implications for thousands of people and thousands of horses would be dire
The OMAFRA report highlighted the importance of the existing Horse Improvement Program (HIP) and Ontario Sire Stakes (OSS) Program and recommends that they continue, a statement which OHRIA thinks bodes well for buyer confidence at the upcoming horse sales in Ontario.
The panel strongly encourages the government to keep horse racing in the mix of gaming opportunities in Ontario by forging “a new partnership” with the industry.
The OMAFRA panel strongly urges that the government review and decide quickly on the recommendations outlined in the report before further substantial economic losses are incurred by the horse racing and breeding industry in Ontario, including preserving the health dignity and lives of between 7,500 and 13,000 Ontario horses in 2013.
The OMAFRA panel has asked for a continuance, to work with OHRIA and the horse racing and breeding industry, to create a detailed plan for the future and is scheduled to report back with the plan to Minister McMeekin’s office by September 30, 2012.
The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) is appreciative of the OMAFRA panel’s efforts, “OHRIA recognizes the effort and worthy contribution of the OMAFRA panel and looks forward to continuing our work with the panel to formulate the plan,” commented Sue Leslie, President of OHRIA.
Sue Leslie would like to assure the industry that the OHRIA Board will continue its efforts to preserve a healthy and vibrant horse racing and breeding industry in Ontario. “We see this report as a positive step toward working with our government to achieve an outcome where the horse racing industry will continue its valuable contribution to Ontario’s economy.”