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Burgess: Letter to the Editor of the Toronto Star

Published: November 4, 2013 2:49 pm ET

Last Comment: November 5, 2013 10:48 am ET | 5 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Attn: Michael Cooke, Editor
Dear Mr. Cooke:

Ontario Horseracing

Last summer Mr. Brian Tropea, the General Manager of the Ontario Harness Horse Association (which represents 3500 standardbred horsemen and breeders in Ontario as members) and I were invited to a very pleasant lunch in Campbellville by your Feature Reporter Mary Ormsby.

At that time Ms. Ormsby advised us that she was on a basic fact finding mission. After lunch Mary conducted very intelligent interviews with Brian and me. My recollection now is that Mary was principally interested in more background understanding on two things.

FIRSTLY, the financial plight of the 50,000 owners, trainers, breeders and tradespeople in the Ontario horse industry. We advised her that their sad situation was entirely caused by Mr. Duncan's sudden and unexpected cancellation of horseracing's successful revenue-sharing joint venture with the OLG. Obviously, without appropriate racing opportunities and purse monies, Brian and I advised Mary that there could no longer be a future for
people or horses in Ontario (previously perhaps ranked #' 1 in the World).

SECONDLY, we advised Mary that the conventional wisdom was that Mr. Duncan had been advised to terminate Ontario's involvement in racing in order to meet the demands of Las Vegas casino investors interested in operating a Toronto casino without competition.

We can remember absolutely no discussion with Mary of an ORNGE-style scandal being a motivating factor in the cancellation of racing's 12-year-old joint venture with the OLG. As you know this joint venture brought the OLG and Ontario's taxpayers over a billion dollars a year.

In these circumstances I was therefore very disappointed that Mary's article on Saturday appeared to try to make a hero of Mr. Duncan. Her article did not deal with the ONLY important racing question remaining ------ the fact that the present Liberal Government has left our horsemen, our breeders and our tradespeople almost completely out of the mix with NO NEW JOINT VENTURE AGREEMENT and NO DIRECT NEGOTIATIONS with the Minister of Agriculture.

For their very financial survival (not the racetracks that have already negotiated their own deals with Government containing no protection for racing's participants) our horseman and breeders need a significant joint venture with Government.. . . . . . A HOPELESSLY INADEQUATE SUBSIDY WILL NOT CUT IT.

Hence my email to Mary. A copy of this email has been attached for your review.

Robert B. Burgess Q.C.


Mary:

Congratulations on having achieved the prominence you received on the front page of last Saturday's Star!

Your well-researched article seems to have attracted a very wide readership and both Brian Tropea of OHHA and I are obviously very happy for you. We believe you should be extremely gratified with the response and interest your serious article on horseracing has received.

However, there is a forgotten and very sad side to this crisis in Ontario horseracing.

In trying to conduct a salvage operation our Premier, perhaps inadvertently, seems to have almost completely forgotten Ontario's horsemen, breeders and suppliers.

As you know, when racing originally accepted the introduction of slot machines in their specially-zoned properties in 1998 there were four joint venture partners (the municipalities received a 5% share, the owners and operators of the racetracks received a 10% share, the horsemen and breeders received a 10% share and the Ontario Lottery Corporation received the balance remaining of 75%) all as outlined and described in the Sadinsky Report to which you made reference in your article.

Now the current government has decided to still pay the equivalent of the original 5% share to the participating municipalities without change. Also, at the same time, the current government has arranged for the racetracks to face only modest reductions from their 10% share under their new rental agreements with the OLG (although the tracks will obviously be operating under far greater fiscal scrutiny and control).

The Sadinsky Report, while recommending far more extensive controls over the 10% being originally paid to the owners and operators of racetracks also at the same time strongly recommended that the 10% being paid to horsemen and breeders for purses and breeders' awards should be continued without change or amendment, arguing eloquently that the implementation of this particular recommendation was absolutely necessary and essential in order to retain the 50,000 jobs in rural Ontario.

Furthermore, unlike the alleged actions of the tracks under SARP, every single nickel paid under SARP for purses and breeders' awards clearly has been made to the proper recipients without criticism or deduction of any kind.

However, the current Government chose to ignore this research- based recommendation by Dr. Sadinsky and instead chose to cancel and replace the 10% share paid for purses and breeders' awards under SARP. They replaced it with a direct subsidy amounting to less than a third of the normal annual contribution earned by horsemen and breeders under SARP for the past 12 years. This terrible lack of foresight has made Ontario uncompetitive and unattractive when compared with all other major racing jurisdictions.

Following Ms. Wynne's failure to continue the 10% support to horsemen and breeders absolute chaos and uncertainty have already developed in both thoroughbred and standardbred breeding circles and in all of racing save at Woodbine and Mohawk. Accordingly, in my opinion, if current trends continue and there is no significant relief for horsemen and breeders there will be no meaningful racing or breeding industry in Ontario within 2 years.

Two of my clients, one a thoroughbred breeder (Curraghmore Farms-Vera Simpson at (905) 689-4821) and the other a standardbred trainer (Robert Fellows at (519) 856-2221) can help you and provide you with very complete and detailed information on this discouraging situation that we all now face ... and face only as a direct result of the current government's decision to ignore our horsemen, breeders and suppliers.

Robert B. Burgess Q.C.




The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.

November 5, 2013 - 10:48 amif ohha represents 3500

bob smith SAID...

if ohha represents 3500 ontario horsemen,and women, then my first question is
who represents the other 40-50 thousand horsepeople in the province??
and there, ladies and gentlemen, is where the problem starts !!
as i recall, mr sadinsky was very clear about the horsepeple of ontario, needing to create a new voice, a new organization, putting all horsepeople under one name!! and he even went so far,as to name a formula for the new board of directors,of said new organization,so as no one splinter group would have control in the boardroom!!
IS IT NOT TIME for the horsepeople of this province, to decide once and for all, who they want to speak to the gov'nt of the day, as a "all for one,one for all" entity ??!!! this industry needs a convention, and those who feel that they want to lead this industry,need to put their name(s) on a ballet, and let the horsepeople decide who will represent them!! i have read lots of letters and lots of ideas on this site and truly believe its time for the next step!! form a new movement,and right quick

November 5, 2013 - 9:51 amAlready the gouvernment is

Already the gouvernment is taking a hit in TAX DOLLARS,
#1- less horsemen (moved or quit)
#2- less horses changing hands and racing
#3- less agricultural revenue,(due to dispersal, re-location and uthenization)
#4- the breeding and sale of yearlings, a big minus.
The way I see it, this gouvernment could not ADMINISTER the TAX PAYERS DOLLARS in the past, their bad decisions has put their cabinet in turmoil, and instead of them taking a cut in pay and reducing the amount of people that are getting paid to do nothing, they take away from the the horse people and one of the best suppliers to their coffers, ( by horse people I mean ALL AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITY). is there no hind-sight to what their doing???. Now they abolish the SARP (1.1 BILLIONS DOLLARS), put the hurt on the agricultural community.They stab the horse people in the back, to try and make up for their bad decisions of the past.The administration in this gouvernment smells from milles away ( U.S.A., EUROPE, CANADA,ECT, ECT). wITH ALL THSES BUSINESSES CLOSING OR MOVING,where are they going to get the money these people and businesses paid in taxes???. With more people on welfare and unemployment. We all know that with less people earning and less people spending,in their BINGO HALLS AND CASINOS AND RACETRACKS, that the TAX PAYER is going to take another hit. I hope the tax payer's eyes are wide open. GET OUT THERE AND VOTE, this gouvernment is taking 49% of your hard earned money, do you want them to take it all.BAD, BAD, BAD ADMINISTRATION.

November 4, 2013 - 8:15 pmThe liberals wont win.... but

Will Yamakva SAID...

The liberals wont win.... but it will not be because of this topic. They hurt themselves to many more than 50k horseman

November 4, 2013 - 6:34 pmAgain and again Mr. Burgess

Peggy Powell SAID...

Again and again Mr. Burgess gets everything correct. I can't understand Why, if the government had any notion of helping the industry , he wasn't asked to head the transition panel? I think that if we put our heads together we can figure it out pretty easily.

November 4, 2013 - 4:08 pmThe longer the Ontario

The longer the Ontario provincial liberals wait to go to the polls the more informed the young and old alike of the voters are. When the concellation of the SARP first occured not to many of the old in Madoc new just how serious the situation was, however, that has changed. We will see just how many liberal candidates get elected in the next Ontario provincial election. You will not get away with these tactics in this area anyway. Just thinking, sincerely Bruce T. Winning


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