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Liberal Leadership Candidates On Safeguarding Horse Racing

Published: December 22, 2012 10:12 am ET

Last Comment: December 22, 2012 11:08 pm ET | 15 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The future of the industry, and of the 55,000 full-time and part-time jobs that it provides primarily in rural Ontario, has been thrown into question by the McGuinty government's abrupt decision earlier this year to withdraw slot machines from the province's racetracks.

The decision ended a successful partnership that has helped to financially sustain the industry while providing revenues to the Ontario government.

"It's very encouraging that so far five of the seven people who have a chance to lead the Ontario Liberal Party and become Premier starting in January are publicly showing their understanding of how important the horse racing and breeding industry is to the lives of hard-working people in rural Ontario," says Racing Future president and founder Dennis Mills, a Toronto business executive and former long-serving Liberal Member of Parliament who is spearheading efforts to raise public awareness of the issue, particularly in urban areas.

At an all-candidates' round table on rural issues held in Avonmore, Ontario on December 18, Racing Future invited the six attending leadership candidates - all except Harinder Takhar who was not present - to make a videotaped statement of their respective views about the future of the successful partnership between the horse racing and breeding racing and OLG that had existed before the McGuinty government announced its end. The following are the key points that they made in their respective statements.

Charles Sousa: "The industry is critical to Ontario, so obviously critical to many families. We're one of the best horse breeding industries anywhere in the world. It also makes Ontario even that much more special when we have such an important horse racing and breeding industry. It's also nice that it energizes communities all over the province. For that reason, it's important that we continue to make the horse racing industry sustainable, to make the horse breeding industry sustainable... We need to find ways to make it work. I look forward to doing that."

Gerard Kennedy: "I think that this one of the decisions that the government's made that it has to not just review, because it has been doing that, but understand that it came about in a manner that can't be the best outcome and there has to be a way of us making decisions with communities with full outlook in terms of what the impacts are going to be and how we mitigate the consequences. And so I think that there's a better accommodation to be made…. I fully support that there be a better outcome than the one that seemed to be imminent with the decision to remove the revenue from slots from the racetracks. I want to see that there is a viable industry. I want to see that the government participates in a better transition than we've already talked about.. As Premier, I will take an interest in that."

Glen Murray: "I think the entire strategy with Ontario Lottery and Gaming has to be rethought both in rural and urban areas. There are some real problems, I think, with some of the directions that we're going in, and some of it has negative impacts both on the rural economy and on the horse industry….. I think it's time that we press the pause button and we really go back and look at the mathematics on this. I've met with Racing Future, Dennis Mills sat down with me, and I've been becoming increasingly convinced that something has to be done."

Eric Hoskins: "Not only [do] I affirm just how important our horse racing and horse breeding sector is to Ontario's economy, to Ontario's social fabric… we need to commit to going forward. I commit to doing this in the first 60 days of my mandate as Premier, in fact, because I understand the urgency. With the decisions that have been made in the past, we really need to work on this as a matter of top priority. So I commit in the first 60 days of being Premier that I would review the sector, ensure that it becomes and is a full part of Ontario's gambling strategy…. and work toward in that 60-day review creating a sustainable horse racing sector and horse breeding sector that recognizes its economic contribution to this province…. There needs to be, in any jurisdiction around the world that has a vibrant horse racing sector … permanent partnership and permanent support from its government."

Kathleen Wynne: "I believe that this has been a real trauma for the rural communities and for the horse racing industry, and so my commitment is to work with the community so that we have a sustainable horse racing industry based on the report of the transition panel and I think that that's the starting point for this discussion. I've also committed to taking on the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as my own as Premier for up to a year because I think that this issue and others in rural Ontario need the focus of the Premier."

Sandra Pupatello, leaving the round table early, declined to make a videotaped statement, saying that she was late for a meeting. She referred us to her rural platform which, in reference to horse racing, states that she "support[s] the recommendations of the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel."

Meanwhile, the Ontario NDP has taken virtually the same position as Racing Future on the McGuinty government's plan to terminate the slot machine partnership with Ontario racetracks. In a statement by the party's economic development critic, Essex MPP Taras Natyshak, the NDP says that "the government should immediately freeze the removal of slot machines from racetracks across Ontario. They should continue the SARP program until 2014, so that the horse-racing industry can continue to operate while the government works directly with the industry to find a real solution to this crisis, to guarantee the long-term viability of the industry."

Natyshak says on behalf of the NDP in the statement: The McGuinty Liberals' decision to end the slots-at-racetracks program (SARP), without any consultation or negotiation, has sent the horse-racing industry reeling. The future existence of the industry in Ontario is in jeopardy. This once-world-class and vibrant industry which contributes a total of $1.5 billion in wages and salaries to Ontario's economy has since taken quite a hit. We've already seen almost 1,000 jobs lost and 50,000 more jobs are on the line. On top of the economic and jobs impacts, owners are left with no choice by to put down some of their race horses. They've dropped in value so much that owners can no longer afford to carry the costs of feeding and maintaining them."

Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak, on the other hand, proposes to privatize OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation), saying:

Gambling is a legitimate activity, but the government of Ontario should not be in the business of actively promoting it to help balance the budget. There is an inherent contradiction in the government being the regulator and also the day-to-day operator. We should move to wind down the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, getting government out of the gambling business.

According to Racing Future, "private operators are not interested in meeting public policy objectives: privatizing the OLG is a move that would leave the horse racing and breeding industry entirely at the mercy of private corporations."

(Racing Future Inc.)

December 22, 2012 - 11:08 pmExcept for Gerrard Kennedy,

Lynne Magee SAID...

Except for Gerrard Kennedy, these candidates have all been part and parcel of the crap that the Liberals have been spreading across the entire province for the past nine years. If they now think that what McGuinty, Duncan and the OLG were doing and have done to the our industry was wrong, why didn't they speak out against the tyrants before it got to this point? Now, they are looking for our votes so they are suddenly willing to listen and re-assess???
This is my take on their responses:

Sousa---same as Darryl Newbigging---Yadda! Yadda! Yadda! All the proper political jargon and the nice smile.

Pupatello----Thanks for nothing Sandra. Looking good (as usual) but with Duncan as her mentor/supporter----forget it.

Hoskins---Says all the right words. Has done his homework. Good writers. Not sure there is any sincerity there though. Again---one of the guys who said nothing when this all started along with all of the other costly "mistakes" that the Liberals have made.

Kennedy---I liked him in his last run at the leadership over McGuinty. I would like to see him run for mayor of Toronto against the Fords. The only one that has not been a part of the ruination of our industry.

Murray---I think he has possibilities. Seems to have been educated about our industry by Dennis Mills. Re-doing the math and pressing the pause button are two things that we definitely have been asking for all along. He makes the most sense to me but, again, where was he when Godfrey pressured the government to end the SARP? Will he cave when Godfrey comes to call?

Wynne---"REAL TRAUMA for the horse racing community"---No kidding. Don't like the fact that she is putting her faith in the transition panel's report which is a death sentence for harness racing.

These are all politicians looking for our votes. Dennis Mills had done a great job of lobbying for the racing industry. I'm worried that Godfrey will do better with this party.

December 22, 2012 - 8:00 pmRight now Ontario is big

Norm Brunet SAID...

Right now Ontario is big public sector at 1.3 million strong, big unions whom want more regardless of the state of the economy and government monopoly's (LCBO and OLG)which are b.t.w. illegal in Canada and which could bring more income to the government and Ontario taxpayers , if run by the private sector. I don't agree with Future For Racing analysis of private sector running gaming because with the right government they could mandate with the stroke of a pen that tracks get a cut of the proceeds.
As it is, this Liberal government, with the stroke of a pen via the OLG ( Gov ) wiped out a revenue sharing agreement from our industry.
If the state of Illinois supreme court ruled that riverboat casinos had to pay 4% of profits to horseman in Illinois for INFRINGING UPON THEIR TERRITORY then why would an Ontario court not come up with the same findings. The horse industry does have rights but we need to defend them.

December 22, 2012 - 7:26 pmYour kidding right Jack?

Ted Decker SAID...

Your kidding right Jack? Supporting the party that killed your industry.

December 22, 2012 - 5:54 pmListen carefully to Eric

Jack Darling SAID...

Listen carefully to Eric Hoskins. He sounds informed and sincere and is saying the things we need to hear. He understands the importance of our industry to the ecomomy,that we need a sustainable,vibrant racing and breeding industry,that horse racing must be a full part of the overall gambling strategy in Ont., that horse racing should be a permanent partner with the govt. Most importantly, Mr. Hoskins understands the urgency of our situation. He has pledged to deal with this in the first 60 days if he is elected. This seems to be a politician that we can support.

December 22, 2012 - 2:08 pmWe all know why Dalton Dwight

Norm Brunet SAID...

We all know why Dalton Dwight Paul and Larry decided this. The last 2 will recruit the new leader. I'll take my chances with another party.

December 22, 2012 - 1:30 pmWell,iam certainly not a guru

Well,iam certainly not a guru of politics but to put it inn horse racing terms gerald kennedy sure got in were he can win this week.So i tried paying most attention to what he had to say and from what i could understand from this is that he seems to talk more about putting policies in place so that unreversable bad decisions are not made in the future but im not fully sure if i understood what he was spinning out of his mouth or truly if he even, knew what he was saying sure seems like the next premier to me .Lets hope for an election and fast

December 22, 2012 - 12:55 pmWhen the decision was made

Ian Howard SAID...

When the decision was made the Liberals thought they would get a majority in Kitchener and never dreamed of the speaker's ruling that would force Mcguinty, Duncan, and Bentley to retire.
This party is now being forced to respond to the fact if they are to have any chance of governing they must mend fences. Whether their intentions are sincere or opportunistic doesn't matter, they are now at their most vulnerable.
Either the Liberals deliver a model that sustains the industry or racetracks take their chances by not signing leases with the OLG and force the government to explain how they destroyed racing and crippled the OLG all at the same time.

December 22, 2012 - 12:25 pmInteresting how those who

Bobbi Morley SAID...

Interesting how those who were so supportive of McGuinty & Duncan are now saying the decision and process was flawed .. at least, I think that is what they are saying, but with politicians looking for support, one never really knows. Those that agreed to be interviewed need to go to their boss and tell him that they collectively want OLG plans to be frozen immediately, until a leader is chosen, other wise, they are just spewing more Liberal bafflegab. They still don't get my vote.

December 22, 2012 - 12:21 pmAll I can say is this: A very

All I can say is this: A very intelligent man once said:

Love Many.....Trust Few....And Paddle your own Canoe!!!!!

December 22, 2012 - 12:13 pmWith the exception of

Georg Leber SAID...

With the exception of Kathleen Wynne, none of these people have a remote chance of leading the Liberal party. Wynne, Pupatello and Takhar are the serious contenders. Wynne said nothing and the other two avoided. In fact, Pupatello is a student of Duncan politics and fully supported by him. If she gets in she will accelerate the destruction of our industry and support Duncan and McGuinty in their future endeavors (working for the Casinos).

Liberal government is death to our industry period.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

December 22, 2012 - 12:12 pmTo me this looks like a bunch

gord young SAID...

To me this looks like a bunch of politicians looking to get elected and improve their position in life.

December 22, 2012 - 12:02 pmWhat a shame we can't trust

What a shame we can't trust the Liberals but I did hear some words of encouragement.I've thought all along that the newly elected leader would call an election immediately thinking that he/she could win a majority,and so, I've been trying to assess whether the Conservatives or the NDP would be best for horse racing.But now I'm not so sure that he/she will call an election and therefore I'm concentrating on which Liberal would be best for horse racing when he/she becomes Premier.The new leader could be Premier for three years so horsemen supporting the right candidate is incredibly important.

December 22, 2012 - 11:22 amAfter viewing the interviews

After viewing the interviews and statements made by these Liberal leadership candidates, I find myself in a greater state of confusion than ever before. The first question that I have to ask is ..... where were they when the decision was made to end the SAR program??? Secondly, not one of them indicated that they would re-instate the partnership (SAR) that existed when the SAR program was in place. Thirdly, where is the revenue ($1.1 Billion) that was being generated in profits as a result of the SAR program, going to come from and what about the shortfall to the local municpalities when they do their annual budgets in 2013. Obviously there has to be an increase in taxes to make up for lost revenue. Finally, no one mentioned the loss of 55,000 jobs in rural Ontario when there are already 600,000 currently unemployed and the negative economic impact that has been created and will continue as a result of this decision. It appears to me that this is nothing but political rhetoric with no concrete policies by any of these candidates. Sandra Pupatello is already "running away and hiding" from a simple question. What would she be like as Premier? And Takhar was a no show indicating that he's not interested in rural issues..... I think I'll pass on all of them.

December 22, 2012 - 11:08 amWhere were all these people

Bill Stanton SAID...

Where were all these people when Mr. McGuinty was running amok??? All I can say is "Don't Trust em". Besides I do believe there are quite a few more than 50,000 people affected by Mr. Mcguinty's decision to ruin an industry. Funny how the number keeps going down isn't it?


December 22, 2012 - 10:37 amYadda! Yadda! Yadda!

Yadda! Yadda! Yadda!

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