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Ont. Liberal Leadership Candidates Comment On Horse Racing

Published: January 3, 2013 11:50 am ET

Last Comment: January 5, 2013 1:24 am ET | 9 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

As the calendar creeps closer to the Ontario Liberal Party's 2013 Leadership Convention (January 25 - 27), several of the candidates looking to replace outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty have gone on the record once again regarding how they would deal with the province's now-precarious horse-racing industry.

Citing a lengthy exclusive piece which will be featured in the forthcoming January/February 2013 issue of Ottawa Life Magazine, a story on by Simon Vodrey contains quotes from five of the seven Ontario Liberal Leadership candidates.

Some of the candidates that were interviewed for the piece chose to be refreshingly direct with their statements and comments, while other chose to be rather vague and non-committal with their statements.

Some of the main quotes from the candidates (Dr. Eric Hoskins, Gerard Kennedy, Glen Murray, Charles Sousa, Kathleen Wynne) that were interviewed appear below.

Dr. Eric Hoskins

  • “I would review the decision to end the Slots-at-Racetracks Program in the first 60 days as Premier. (…) I would build on what was learned from the Horse Racing Transition Panel’s report. (…) I don’t formally endorse the report, but I will take aspects of the report into consideration. (…) We need to develop a long-term, sustainable solution.”
  • Dr. Hoskins also stated that, “other viable horse racing industries around the world require an investment by the public sector.”
  • On the possible euthanization of up to 13,000 horses: “If that were to happen, it would be a truly tragic outcome. I think that most Ontarians would agree on that. That’s part of the reason why I have directly addressed the horse racing issue in my rural plan. (…) I am certainly hoping that the industry will be able to take care of these horses. (…) I am confident that breeders as well as other industry members will be able to safeguard these animals and make it viable. I don’t want to see the erosion of this industry.”

Gerard Kennedy

  • “The fact that ending the Program has such a damaging impact is something we’re all now fully aware of.”
  • “The decision was made in a way that did not take all the impact into account. (…) I think that a number of things in the budget were done because the government didn’t have the time to examine the likely consequences of its actions, and this is one of those things.”
  • “There are other options and it’s a mistake that we didn’t get to address these options from the beginning. It’s one of those things that people will hold against the Liberals in a justifiable way until we come up with a better solution.”
  • “I’m not convinced the existing strategy would work and I’m hoping to review it. I’m much more comfortable with slots and gaming being located at designated safe places for gambling in the province (like they were when they were located at the province’s horse racing tracks under the SARP) than casino locations in downtown areas.”
  • “The revenue-sharing associated with the SARP was disproportionately beneficial to the government. [And] we have to land somewhere that still allows a viable industry.”
  • “Partnerships of any kind and any time require more respect than that which took place in this decision.”

Glen Murray

  • “I am great believer in math and like to make decisions based on good math. I’ve had several months’ listening to the concerns of people in rural and urban Ontario and I have very serious concerns about the revenue assumption that the government is determined to proceed with when it comes to the phasing-out of the Slots Program. (…) As Premier, I would hit the pause button on this decision. I would ask that we take a much stronger evidence-based approach on this issue and look at rethinking our approach before making any major decisions. (…) As Premier, I would want to sit down and have a very candid conversation with the members of the Horse Racing Transition Panel about what’s working and what’s not.”

Charles Sousa

  • “I also want to promote a successful marketing procedure that can play a role in drawing in more revenue to the province’s horse racing industry, thereby making it more financially sustainable.”
  • “Again, we’re talking about fiscal issues. I don’t care what we call it. What’s important is that we have to get the best value for money. (…) I am not going to get into semantics but what concerns me is the question of how are we going to continue to grow the industry itself and how are we going to reshape things in a way that enables the government partnership to work effectively and efficiently, thereby allowing the industry to survive and grow.”
  • “Consultation with the industry is also crucial.”

Kathleen Wynne

  • “I think that we do need a viable industry. There’s no doubt about that. There are thousands of jobs associated with this industry and I think we need a sober second thought on the supports that need to be in place for the industry.”
  • “It will go through a transition. It will look different in a few years than it looked a few years ago, but I don’t think anyone is saying that’s a bad thing.”
  • “The consultation with the industry probably wasn’t as robust as it should have been. (…) I think that you save a lot of money and a lot of anxiety by talking to people first and then taking action so that you actually know what it is you’re walking into. And so, if we had this to do again, we probably would have had some of these conversations up front so we wouldn’t have been in reactive mode.”
  • Referring to the framing of the SAR Program as a 'subsidy': “I think there was a semantic argument about what exactly the words meant. (…) I think it’s how you see the language and I know that the subsidy language was inflammatory to the sector and so I think we need to find language that is common and that we can agree is more descriptive of what is actually going on.”
  • “The reality is that it was revenue that could have been used by the provincial treasury that was being used to stabilize the industry.”

(With files from Ottawa Life Magazine and

(Photo courtesy Mark Blinch/Reuters)

January 5, 2013 - 1:24 amThey are liberals and there

They are liberals and there is no chance of them saving their party in Ont!! It will be political suicide for whoever gets the leadership roll!!

January 4, 2013 - 7:52 pmRemember the old saying " How

Jim VanBoven SAID...

Remember the old saying " How can you tell when a politician is lying? Watch their lips". They will say anything to get elected.

January 3, 2013 - 8:34 pmThe new Liberal leaders first

Dave Bryans SAID...

The new Liberal leaders first mission should be to replace the Minister of Agriculture - Ted McMeekin. He has stood back and allowed the caucus to damage the very industry he is supposed to represent - Agriculture. His job is to protect the farmers, feed men, farriers, horse people and more importantly the animals. Instead he stands back with the understanding that potentially thousands of horses would be euthanized under his watch due to his failure to speak out and represent the Ministry and what it stands for. Mr. McMeekin should have been our conduit to have a political voice and friend and he has hid behind the process.
He has also stood back and joined the Casino and gaming ranks and if wasn't for a couple of Hamilton Councillors he would have seen Flamboro join the Windsor and Fort Erie demise in his own riding. A change in Ministry would see the right leader representing the majority of horse related industries and encourage the new Premier to reconsider the circumstances. This will give the industry the required time to wait out the next election as the Liberal Party will fall to third party status due to all past issues that include, Orange, E health, Windmills and proroguing of the house. Ontarians will not forgive this party for the last 8 years and unfortunately Mr. McMeekin has not stood by any of you, just weighed in to be able to say he tried to help and we must accept the entire preplanned fate of the racing industry by the Premier and Duncan. Time for change!

January 3, 2013 - 7:26 pmWhere were these people when

Paul moynagh SAID...

Where were these people when McGuinty & Duncan were reeking havoc
on the industry? Unfortunately you cannot believe any of them.

January 3, 2013 - 6:53 pmHere we go again. The

Here we go again. The Liberals are feeling the crunch and will say anything to stay in power. Are they going to re-instate the SAR program..... not a chance. The deals with the US based casinos have already been made by McGuinty, Duncan and their puppet Godfrey. To renege on those contracts would cost the gov't millions. The Province is already under severe financial pressure due to the deficit caused by the other failed blunders hatched by these same Liberals. (gas plants, Ornge, green energy program, e-health, etc. just to name a few.) Now with an impending election looming, the concerns of the horse racing industry has suddenly surfaced with at least 60,000 votes at stake, not counting the others in supporting industries affiliated with the horse industry. Ladies and Gentlemen, the damage has already been done. It will take years for breeders and participants in the industry to recover their losses. The question is..... why are we going to entertain more of the same? I say, once bitten.... twice shy!!

January 3, 2013 - 4:14 pmEveryone should keep in mind

Cam McKnight SAID...

Everyone should keep in mind that the next Liberal Leader will automatically become the next Premier.

While we may not like what has happened, fact is one of the Leadership candidates will control the fate of our industry -- at least until the next election (which could possibly drag out for another 2 1/2 years).

Given SARP is due to end in March, the positions of these candidates is very relevant to our immediate future.

While most of the Leadership candidates in this article have obviously softened their tone on SARP (and the future of racing), one candidate noticeable because of her absence is front-runner Sandra Pupatello.

Pupatello is tied to the hip with Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. Both are from Windsor, went to school together, and she ran his failed '96 Leadership bid. If elected she has promised to keep the House recessed until she can win a seat in a by-election (the one Duncan is retiring from).

A by-election would likely not take place until fall, meaning SARP would be long gone. Contrast this to the positions of Gerard Kennedy, Glenn Murray or Eric Hoskins. These three all indicate they would hit the pause button on the Slots decision. Kathleen Wynne and Charles Sousa are also both admitting the decisions were too hasty and seem to indicate they would try and remedy the problem.

The only missing key contender is Pupatello -- and unfortunately she is the favorite.

While the Liberal Party certainly deserves the blame for this mess, we are going to have to live with them (at least in the short term).

Instead of continuing to bash them, wouldn't it make more sense to convince Liberal delegates to support candidates who are sympathetic with our cause? Each riding in Ontario can select up to 25 delegates (including Youth delegates). These delegates will be selected next weekend (January 12-13). The elected delegates will then attend the Liberal convention in Toronto the weekend of January 25, and those 2,500 delegates will select the next Premier.

Instead of bashing Liberals for the next three weeks, I believe we should be talking to as many as possible, and working to convince them of our cause (and make sure they know Pupatello represents more of McGuinty/Duncan quagmire.)

January 3, 2013 - 2:16 pmAnd so it begins all over

Carolyn Rae SAID...

And so it begins all over again. Remember all the accolades about the benefits of the Slots-at-Racetracks Revenue Sharing Partnership from McGuinty and Duncan just previous to the last election. Too soon forgotten, followed by broken contracts and slanderous remarks labelling the "very successful Revenue Sharing Agreement" as a "subsidy" as soon as they were given their mandate, by the people, to govern this Province!

Let's pray the people of this Province are not so foolish as to fall for their BS and false promises again, and put them back in power!

Returning a Liberal Government to this Province will surely spell disaster and very probably the end of Horse Racing in this Province! Each and every one of us must do all we can, spread the truth about this Liberal Government and their lack of integrity, to ensure no-one in our industry, or outside the industry, is foolish enough to fall for these false promises a second time!

Remember - "Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, SHAME ON ME!"

January 3, 2013 - 12:23 pmWhat woke up these Liberals,

Norm Walker SAID...

What woke up these Liberals, can you believe they just all of a sudden seen the benefit of the horse racing industry or could it be our ability to allow them to pull off another election victory - Don't fall for it - trust has to be earned.

January 3, 2013 - 12:22 pmBottom Line, Their Liberal's

Rob Brown SAID...

Bottom Line, Their Liberal's ! Saying what they can to save their party not horse racing !!!!

Rob Brown

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