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Support For Harness Racing In PEI

Published: November 29, 2019 4:26 pm ET

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During the afternoon session of Prince Edward Island's legislature on Thursday (Nov. 28) three provincial parties made statements in strong support of the importance of harness racing to P.E.I.

The first statement came from the Hon. Darlene Compton, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance as well as the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.

"It is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak about an industry that doesn't necessarily garner a lot of attention within this house. I speak of our harness racing industry," said Compton. "There is a long heritage of harness racing in Prince Edward Island since this industry started in 1886 in Summerside, and in Charlottetown in 1888. The harness racing industry is said to have touched every Island community over the years because of the many family members, friends and colleagues who have or are currently working at the Driving Park and within the industry.

"Our harness racing industry gives Prince Edward Island the reputation of being the Kentucky of Canada, which makes us a prime destination for harness racing," continued Compton as part of her statement. "Prince Edward Island has staged several national-level events, such as the O'Brien Awards, World and National Driving Championships, and, of course, the renowned Gold Cup & Saucer race. I encourage all Islanders to take in an evening or a race at the races and see first-hand the professionalism, quality and skill of those who operate in this industry."

The statement in support of harness racing was responded to by MLA Michele Beaton of the Green Party, and she also spoke to the benefit of the industry to the province.

"Every summer, Islanders make the pilgrimage to Charlottetown Driving Park to witness one of our province's great cultural events, the Gold Cup & Saucer race. Ex-patriot Islanders have been known to schedule their trips back home around the race, Mr. Speaker. Likewise, visitors from all over the world make their way to our province to take part in the annual Gold Cup & Saucer festivities.

"Additionally, harness racing has been a major staple of the Summerside Lobster Carnival since the 1950s and continues to be a major source of local and tourist interest," continued Beaton. "Undoubtedly, the popularity of these races is due in no small part to the excellent sports and entertainment on display, which, of course, would not be possible without the hard-working individuals in our harness racing industry."

The former Minister responsible for harness racing in PEI, MLA Heath MacDonald also made a statement reinforcing the positive impact of of the industry.

"It was obviously a privilege in my role as Finance Minister to be in charge of the harness racing file. I grew in a harness racing community surrounded by horses running in open fields, and then there came developments and so on....sometimes you look back upon those days and you say 'wow, that was pretty neat.' And I still go to the Terry Fox Centre, and the odd time I look across the fields and I see Ronnie & Diane Gass' thirtysome horses running through the field and it's pretty impressive to see that these days with all the developments taking place in my community.

"There's so many things coming out of the harness racing industry in the past few years. When you look at what Bruce Wood and Charlene Cypher and Samantha Gallant and they got together to do things for cancer and Harness The Hope, and you look at the hire of David MacKenzie who's long bred into the harness racing industry and really enjoys it, and you see some of the innovation that's taking place," MacDonald continued. "When you go to the colt sale and, unfortunately, the majority of those colts are shipped out of province but it is a part of our export, so it's a part of our growth."

Full statements can be viewed in the following video from the PEI Legislature at around the 84-minute (1:24:00) mark. Video Archive of PEI Legislative Assembly Proceedings (November 28).

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