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Dr. Ian Moore's Blog

 

A Letter to Dwight Duncan

Published: February 19, 2012 11:25 am ET

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Date: Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 9:33 PM
Subject: Race Horse Industry In Ontario
To: [email protected]
Cc: [email protected]

Honorable Dwight Duncan
Minister of Finance
Province of Ontario

Dear Mr. Duncan:

I am writing this e-mail letter to you to express my deep concerns over what I am reading about in regards to the Ontario government and the horse racing industry in the province, in particular as it relates to the harness racing side.

I am a veterinarian of 30 years now, having practiced on horses all of that time after graduation in 1982 from the University of Guelph. Before that, as 12 year old on Prince Edward Island, I became part of the race horse industry of which now I have made not only a career, but also a lifestyle. In recent years I have been devoting more and more time to harness racing and with business partners like Serge Savard (retired as one of the greatest NHL defencemen of all time), it became impossible to turn large investments in the industry into a potentially profitable business in the Maritimes. At 58 years of age, I have left a university job in PEI and moved a moderate stable of horses, my veterinary skills and my home to Ontario during the past two years. My family has followed with my 20 year old son Tyler, trying to make a go of it in Ontario now as the Martime provinces could not support many youth trying to find opportunites in horse racing. Both my two daughters live and work in Ontario as well, and both supplement their weekly incomes by working nights and weekends with horses, all paying wage levies and taxes I might add.

It is rather ironic that in 1998, the Ontario government became the first provincial or state government to publically recognize the horse racing business as an industry, and now I hear that the province's mindset may be changing. Mr. Drummond is probably a very astute economist, but he has either inadvertently or perhaps purposely left many things about the fabric and intricate details of the racing industry out of his report, which does seem very narrow in scope. He states that "Ontario has more racetracks than any other jurisdiction in the U.S. or Canada". Contrary to how he puts it, that statement means that the program and agreements put in place back in the late 90's with a ZERO dollar investment from government, are in fact working - the industry is thriving and growing in all sectors, all because of not only investments by the track operators in gambling facilities, but also by the 60,000 plus industry participants in all kinds of other economic drivers like buying horses, trucks, trailers, feed, equipment, etc.

Ontario racing has not only attracted participants from ALL OVER Canada, but many Americans race in the province now as well, all paying HST and taxes on fuel, food, supplies, etc. American drivers have 30% of their earnings withheld for Canadian tax purposes, much of which flows to the province of Ontario. The province's industry is recognized throughout the world and many world class events and world class horses along with all the people involved with them, have graced the shores of Lake Ontario in the past decade. Many other jurisdictions, including the states of New York and Pennsylvania, have patterned themselves after the highly successful Ontario model.

The Prince Edward Island government recognizes the business of horse racing and supports it how they can with their population base, because they know how it contributes to the tourism sector on the Island, with the biggest tourist week by far being the Old Home Week of racing, 14 race programs in 7 days and The Gold Cup and Saucer, one of Canada's premier races. Ontario tourism must also benefit greatly from horse racing and they all bring money to spend in the province for rooms, food, etc..

When a drought happens, farmers are given subsidies, when car sales are down, subsidies are paid to that industry. This is not a subsidy, but rather a partnership and a business agreement to help sustain an industry, between the province of Ontario, the OLG, the racetracks and the thousands of people in the horse racing industry, all of whom have invested in that partnership and continue to invest, all except the province. Your budget may be overdrawn, but changing that partnership will not even help to solve your problems, but will actually contribute more to them. Think about it, especially as a minority government, and please do the right thing. Leave a growing, prosperous and economically supportive industry alone. Please.

Ian Moore, DVM, B.Sc. Agr.


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