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A Call To Action

Published: February 14, 2012 6:26 pm ET

Last Comment: March 15, 2012 1:05 pm ET | 24 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Standardbred Canada is strongly encouraging all members of Ontario’s immense harness racing community to stand united and make your voice heard for the future of horse racing in the province.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan suggested that in light of tomorrow’s release of the Drummond report, the provincial government is planning to review the Slots at Racetracks partnership between racetracks and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

Today, Ontario represents the heart of Canadian horse racing.

  • 60,000 Ontarians are employed by the province’s racing industry.
  • Horse racing produces 1.5 billion dollars of wages and salaries each year in Ontario.
  • The horse racing industry is the second largest sub-sector of Ontario’s agricultural economy with an economic contribution in excess of wheat, eggs, poultry and hogs in 2010.

“Now is the time for all of us to tell the Ontario government -- and the rest of Ontario -- why the OLG partnership is of such great benefit to the province as a whole,” said Standardbred Canada CEO John Gallinger. “It is vitally important that we stand up for the livelihoods of Ontarians, and for their significant contribution to the Ontario agricultural, economic, and entertainment industries. It is also vital that we point out the immense benefits that horse racing brings to the Ontario economy.”


Get on Facebook. Get on Twitter. Get on your email account. Get a pen and paper. Get this message out to the rest of the province -- and to the rest of the country -- in any way that you can to show Ontarians how important this issue is to you - and to them.

Remind them that:

  • Over the last decade, annual expenditures by the horse racing industry in Ontario have increased by 67% to $2 billion in 2010 from $1.2 billion in 2000.
  • Approximately 80% of this expenditure occurs in Ontario’s rural agriculture communities where it provides much needed economic growth.
  • The government share from Ontario’s horse racing revenue has increased by 27% over the last 10 years, with the province of Ontario receiving $261 million dollars a year from our industry... not including OLG profits from slot machines.
  • Horse racing has played a vital role in this province for more than 150 years.

“We need to let the people of Ontario know that a vibrant horse racing industry not only makes significant contributions to government revenues, but to the health and economic prosperity of our province’s rural communities as well," said Standardbred Canada Chair Tammy McNiven. "We are not only talking about wagering here... we are talking about tens of thousands of real people -- real farmers, real horsemen and horsewomen and their children -- to whom this OLG partnership means food on the table and a roof over their heads.”


Send this call to action to everyone you know, and then act on it yourself.


Send the above message, or use the information in it to draft your own personal message. Share it through Facebook, Twitter, email, and/or written letter to friends, colleagues, your local newspapers and news stations, your local MPP, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, Premier Dalton McGuinty, and opposition leader Tim Hudak.

For more information on the partnership between racetracks and the Ontario government, visit:

Send your message here:

Or via direct email to Dwight Duncan here:
[email protected]

You may want to CC Tim Hudak, leader of the opposition here:
[email protected]

And don’t forget your local MPP too!


60,000 jobs are attributed to the #OntarioHorseRacing and breeding industry. Retweet, spread the word!

Gov't revenues from the #OntarioHorseRacing industry are up 27% in the last decade! Retweet!

#OntarioHorseRacing & breeding industry is the 2nd largest subsector of agriculture economy! Retweet!

80% of #OntarioHorseRacing's expenditures occur in and support rural communities! Retweet!

#OntarioHorseRacing 60,000 jobs, $261 million to provincial government, $138 million to local municipalities. Retweet!

March 15, 2012 - 1:05 pmTo my Canadian Brothers &

To my Canadian Brothers & Sisters in Harness Racing. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Your very successful Slots at the Tracks program has been copied extensively in the United States, and the envy of all. It is a win - win situation for everyone. Now you have been deliberated blind sided by your government. The speed of this attack leaves no doubt it has been well planned over some time. I have read all the articles and comments on the CTA site. All correct and well intentioned, but preaching to the choir. Time is against you. You must quickly bring all your leaders, harness and flat, together at one table, and unite in one voice. You must forget past differences and pick a leader, and mount a no holds barred counter attack, or you will all be destroyed. We have numerous multi-millionaire and influential people in our sport. Call on them for financial support. You must inform the public of the truth. Full page ads in as many newspapers as possible. Let them understand how much is at stake, not just for the horsemen, but Canada.

The Slots at the Tracks program has been extremely profitable to Canada, nationally and locally, while lottery and casinos have had a hard time showing profitability. Why would more casinos change this? The racetracks provide a great environment. Casinos are generally to large, and one reason you see many elderly attending the tracks. The man generally likes the challenge of the horses, the women prefer the slots action. Government is famous for under estimating cost, and over estimating income. The racetracks are Canadian owned, while casino profits end up in Las Vegas, USA. Is Las Vegas still the old Las Vegas, all dressed up in white corporate clothes? These are arguments which will reach the common person who is hard pressed to make a living. But, it takes money to communicate to them. Next, get some GOOD, HUNGRY lawyers to do whatever is necessary to slow the enemy. Once the slots leave, which is scheduled very soon at three tracks, it will be almost impossible to get them back. Unless stopped, they will be the first casualties, the loss of Windsor, Sarnia, and Ft. Erie. I don’t know Canadian law, but in the US injunctions are used many times to slow down projects, until common sense prevails. Horsemen and women, it is our sport and livelihood that is on the line. The politicians almost cost us The Meadowlands. Lets pray it’s not to late to save Canadian racing. Norm McClurg (Toledo Red)

February 16, 2012 - 4:44 pmAs an American fan of

As an American fan of harness racing, I have already written to the Ontario Finance Department to protest these dangerous and short sighted recommendations. I would encourage other American fans to support our Canadian friends. After all, state governments in the U.S. such as Pennsylvania are also looking to cut out support for the horse racing and breeding industries. I'm sure they'll watch Ontario with great interest.
Best of luck in your efforts to support your industry.

February 16, 2012 - 4:02 pmHeres a thought. One person

Greg Parke SAID...

Heres a thought. One person from each shedrow has each person in the shedrow sign a petition. If this is done at each stable, training center, farm, racetrack and paddocks on racenight. Go to the feedstores for the farmers it helps to subsidize etc. It would take no time at all to have thousands of signatures to send to the government.

If Sue Leslie or someone at one the the many horse associations could provide a contact to fax the petitions to them they could forward them off to Ottawa. They could even be available for the protest if we act now.

You have the potential for thousands of signatures within a weeks time.

Just a thought.

Greg Parke

February 16, 2012 - 10:01 amI was wondering if the CanAm

Imeson Helen SAID...

I was wondering if the CanAm Equine Emporium held at Western Fair Mar 16-18 would be a good place to reach horsepeople from other venues. After all if the race business goes under they will have to pick up the shortfall at vets, tack shops, blacksmiths etc. We need their support as well as our own membership's. Perhaps some of our high profile drivers, trainers and owners could speak before some of the more popular events when the arena is full. I know that many pleasure/show people had no idea until perhaps the news stories this week that they themselves could be affected. The more people we have in support of our plight the better, right? I just hope it's not too late.

February 16, 2012 - 7:35 amYet another point to make is

Lynne Magee SAID...

Yet another point to make is in regards to the many thousands of broodmares, youngsters, racing stock and stallions that will be sent for slaughter. There sure as heck won't be much of a market to sell them for anything else. The unemployed horsepeople will have a hard enough time feeding their families.

February 16, 2012 - 12:40 amONE MORE IDEA Find a



Find a spokesperson that Ontarians will pay attention to. This could be a sports figure such as Matts Sundin who has racing connections but is not dependant on racing for a living ( I read somewhere that Dion Phaneuf's grandfather is a trainer). Maybe there's even a newscaster out there who has some racing ties. This person must be able to explain the situation clearly to the public and show them that it is not in the best interest of this province to lose another industry. They must make it clearly understood that slot money is NOT A SUBSIDY and once again we are being mislead by government speak.

Although there are many personable and articulate people in the racing industry I don't think the non racing public will be interested in listening unless it comes from a prominent individual NOT PRIMARILY involved in the industry . Everyone in the racing community must know of such a person - beg for their help if necessary.

February 15, 2012 - 11:48 pmSue Hutton I would suggest

Susan Hutton SAID...

Sue Hutton

I would suggest everyone also contact The Hon Ted McMeekin, MPP (Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Westdale), Ontario Liberal Party - Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs .. either via email, phone, fax, mail or in person at his constituency office.

His constituency office is at 299 Dundas Street East, Waterdown (in the back).
Mailing address:
299 Dundas Street East
P.O. BOX 1240
Waterdown, Ontario L0R 2H0

[email protected]
Constituency Phone: 905-690-6552
Constituency Fax: 905-690-6562

February 15, 2012 - 8:57 pmEveryone should take

Dave Bryans SAID...

Everyone should take 10-15minutes and do exactly what Nicole Henry has contributed: write your 'e' mails as requested and be sure to contact your own MPP. No doubt legal manuevers are an option but expensive and lengthy and yes we could win but after the damage is done. A full out grass roots approach will insure a broader base of politicians and media will understand the outcry and potential damage. My many experiences on these types of issues have made me understand that failure to rally will see many politicians believing this is not a big issue as no one is writing or calling them. Don't assume someone else is going to fix this problem and encourage all your horse people contacts to respond. A simple call to the local MPP office is better than hoping for the best. Whenever the Minister of Finance sends out a trial balloon (as he did on Monday) it usually indicates they are measuring the outcry and in many cases preparing the targeted industry for the predetermined decision they plan to proceed with. Mr Dummond did in fact confirm what Duncan has already stated and the racing industry could be the first example and casualty of the Liberal austerity program. The OLG has the ear of finance and are actually driving this agenda so they can deliver additional gaming dollars from the addicted Ontarians at a cheaper cost. We all must find it somewhat concerning that many race track owners in Ontario are not weighing in or crying foul as they may already have a deal with the OLG and have been asked to be quietly supportive. It is time for the employees to speak out and they are the drivers, trainers, breeders, blacksmiths,vets and grooms and work with your associations to follow the scripts and messaging. To do nothing will result in the finality of many tracks in Ontario but remember it will not be the end of slots or casinos as the government has a hidden and agreed agenda. Let's get going!

February 15, 2012 - 7:50 pmas tim bates says we should

as tim bates says we should be prepared for court. all our groups must get their act together and come together as one voice and that voice should be a well known and respected lawyer. i suggest justice James Donnelly be asked to take leave of absence from his current position and be retained as the horsemens lawyer. just a thought.

February 15, 2012 - 4:44 pmI totally agree with Bob

Dave Snowden SAID...

I totally agree with Bob Burgess and think our harness reps need to co-ordinate with thoroughbred, quarter horse and municipalities to build a team to respond.

Drummond report recommendation "re-evaluate, on a value for money basis the practice of providing a portion of net slots revenue to the horse racing and breeding industry and municipalities in order to substantially reduce and better target that support"

Value for money is the newest buzzword in budgets and I think we can justify every dollar spent in horse racing as good value for money for the government- just use Quebec racing as an example of the opposite. We can beat them at their own game.

For Dwight Duncan to state it is a "subsidy" displays a "lack of knowledge". I had harsher words but wanted to get by the editor..

We need to engage opposition as very few rural ridings vote for liberals.

I am looking to our harness reps to take the lead in developing a team and strategy which needs to include advertising. As Bob has stated we need lawyers on this team to ensure our negotiated rights are protected.

If we need to do a short term fund building by taking a small % of purse distribution and stud fees then we need to do it.

February 15, 2012 - 3:39 pmEVERYONE who has a facebook

Nicole Henry SAID...

EVERYONE who has a facebook or twitter, ADD these politicans as your friend. whats the sense in posting stuff on there if the person we are trying to get through to doesnt see it... if he doesnt accept our request it can be held against him.. lets fill his news feed with our posts....

February 15, 2012 - 3:30 pmI beleive that we should

Nicole Henry SAID...

I beleive that we should start a petition to try and stop them in as many ways possible. I have emailed both the people listed that we should email but, when you think about it are they really going to open all of our emails that are being sent? i know we are trying everything we can but i think we need to take more than one approach then through technology.

February 15, 2012 - 3:26 pmThe Drummond report has now

The Drummond report has now been released. The recommendations that may effect the racing industry are as follow:

Recommendation 17-3:

Allow slot machine operations at sites that are not co-located with horse racing venues

Recommendation 17-4: Re-evaluate, on a value-for-money basis, the practice of providing a portion of net slot revenues to the horse racing and breeding industry and municipalities in order to substantially reduce and better target that support.

The full report can be read here:

Gary Blackburn

February 15, 2012 - 1:49 pmThe time has come for all

The time has come for all involved in the industry to put their disagreements aside and unite as one and to select a group of people involved in this industry to set up talks with the Government to discusss what is being proposed. After reading the comments of Mr. Burgess, he would be my first choice to lead this team. His knowledge of the industry as well as his understanding of the legality of this situation, would be invaluable at any future talks. Others reading this may be able to throw out a few names as well and a team to represent the entire industry in talks with the Government, could be formed quickly.

The hourglass is ticking and if the horse people sit back and do nothing which they are prone to do, and a group is not formed immediately, then there will be severe repercussions that will come quickly to this industry, in which it will never recover. Tracks will close people, jobs will be lost and families will suffer. Generations of future horse people will be lost.

To many reading this, the financially comfortable job you now have in this industry, may soon vanish, the industry that so many people love may be on the verge of extinction, so stand up and do something about it and do it now!!

Gary Blackburn

February 15, 2012 - 1:02 pmWill the government be

John Stensil SAID...

Will the government be shutting down the slots at the tracks? Why would the tracks allow competition for the gambling dollar at their facilities to SUBSIDIZE the government with no benefit for the racing business.

February 15, 2012 - 12:45 pmOur provincial government

Our provincial government has announced that it intends to expropriate (without compensation) the horse industry's share of the funds earned pursuant to the terms of the various siteholders' agreements with the tracks.

These individual siteholders' agreements were entered into by each track with the Government,the local municipality, and the OLG at the time the slots program was initiated. They have subsequently been renewed by all parties.

It goes without saying that these agreements were reviewed by legal counsel for each of the parties and by legal counsel for their respective lenders. These agreements therefore represent legal and binding obligations of our current provincial Government. They cannot be changed or amended in any way without the written consent of all parties, including the horsemen.

By indulging in threatening and careless talk about "subsidies" and about "wanting to get out of the horse business" Mr.Duncan has purposely misrepresented the facts of the situation to our customers and to the general public and exposed our industry to ridicule.

His comments have damaged our racing product and threatened our future. In law, this gives rise to a claim for damages by the racing industry against his Government for anticipatory breach of contract.

The horse industry must continue to take a hard line and continue to stand firm and united. We have nothing to negotiate.

The Government is not above the law when it enters into contractual obligations.

February 15, 2012 - 11:19 amWe can continue the inward

Cam McKnight SAID...

We can continue the inward blame-game for not promoting the Industry better, or the ORC for not playing hardball with racetrack owners (valid), but the bottom line is that the entertainment dynamics have charged dramatically in the last 20 years. No matter how fancy our grandstands, or how well promoted our product is, to think pari-mutual betting will ever grow enough to offset the slot agreement is nothing but fallacy.

The reasoning behind the Province allowing the slot agreement 15 years ago, is no different than the reason it continues to be a necessary evil (public perception) today. ITS ALL ABOUT JOBS.

We can decry and criticize this industry -- we certainly shoot each other in the foot more than enough -- but the fact is 60,000 jobs have a huge, huge spinoff effect.

The government offers major incentives, tax breaks and rescue plans for Auto Assembly plants (ie bailout package 2 years ago). And that was/is in order to protect some 40,000 jobs in Ontario's auto assembly sector. The government has/does provide significant subsidies and incentives in most other agricultural sectors, and most Industrial sectors. That they structured a deal with the Racing Industry to keep those jobs (and a significant sector of rural Ontario) viable isn't a shock. That they would consider sacrificing those jobs is.

Fact is we can all be nay sayers and look like easy prey for politicians, but where does that get anyone? A quick trip to the unemployment line where everyone collects a different type of government subsidy, and one that has very little spin-off.

Sell/convince the media, public and government the importance of the 60,000 jobs (not to mention spin-off employment), and the argument is very, very substantial.

Cam McKnight

February 15, 2012 - 10:26 amCam is 100 percent correct

Cam is 100 percent correct because we are talking about the whole pie not how we split up the pie. The constant fighting in this industry has been about how the slots money is split not whether it is needed. I think it is very important the industry leaders highlight the hundreds of millions of dollars that the provincial and municiopal governments recieve from both the slots and the paramutuel wagering throughout the province. The Finance minister wil try to shine the light on the 20 percent that is given to the racing industry and not discuss the 80 percent that is going to the different levels of government. Having read a number of the posts by Sue Leslie I am very confident that she understands the issues and it is important that industry stands behind all of Ohria's efforts.

February 15, 2012 - 10:12 amThe Toronto Star has


The Toronto Star has published a favorable article in today's sports section. I personally have sent them an email thanking them for doing so.

Anyone with influence in the press should do the same and encourage more coverage even beyond the sports pages. Followers of business news and local economy would also be interested in this information. On line petitions would be a great help but the general public must be made aware of how to sign them.

The standardbred community has some notable sports personalities who are involved. Perhaps they could be influenced to keep up the momentum by talking to the press.

Also the thoroughbred community has some very rich and powerful members. Some of these people have ties to standardbred racing as well. Anyone who knows these types could get them involved (after all this affects them as well). These would be the people who could possibly influence the bigger tv news stations to carry some coverage.

Trainers, drivers, owners must use all your connections to the "rich and famous" to keep this story before the public in a positive light.

It's important not to let this phony story about the money going to health care overshadow the very real stories of honest hard working people being robbed of their livlihood and forced to join the ranks of the unemployed or welfare recipients.

To all participants of this wonderful sport: This may very well be your last chance to save the industry you love. As a devoted fan, I will only be very sad if horse racing dies but you will be devastated both personally and financially. Stand up and fight this for all you're worth!!!

February 15, 2012 - 10:05 amWe could unite and shut the

gord young SAID...

We could unite and shut the 400 series highways down for a few days . . .that would create some attention . . If we need high profile help both Mike Harris and Jean Chrétien held ORC cards at one time.

February 15, 2012 - 9:34 amPlease do not let what

Rae Gale SAID...

Please do not let what happened to Quebec happen in Ontario because of politicans. If I had any influence with the powers that be, I would certainly use them, however I don't so I will email everyone I know to keep this subject current.

February 15, 2012 - 9:04 amWe need high profile

Lynne Magee SAID...

We need high profile industry leaders from outside of the province as well. Jeff Gural would be an excellent ambassador. Many horses from the USA benefit from the lucrative programs in Ontario and vice versa. This is not just a provincial problem. If Ontario goes down, so goes the industry. The spinoffs across North America will be spectacular to say the least.

February 15, 2012 - 8:36 amOn July 1st, 2017, we will

On July 1st, 2017, we will not only be celebrating Canada's 150th birthday, but we will also be celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Canadian Horse Racing! I say on July 1st, 2012, we all take a stand to ensure that when 2017 comes, there will be a grand opportunity to celebrate!! Mark the date....July 1st, 2012!! Let your voices be heard! We are a vibrant racing community and horses have taught us to be patient, determined, and strong. We must delve deep within ourselves to find that strength and band together to get our message heard! 07-01-12, mark the date!

February 14, 2012 - 10:02 pmThis Industry can unite when

Cam McKnight SAID...

This Industry can unite when it must! In the 24 hours since the Duncan statement there has been more positive press about horse racing and its importance to the agricultural sector than I have heard for years.

While the positive press is great, and the emails, tweets and texts are a must, I believe face to face meetings with Minister Duncan and Premier McGuinty are also extremely important -- and time is of the essence.

Getting face time with the Premier or Minister of Finance will not be easy, but I am absolutely certain there are people connected to this industry who have enough contacts within the Liberal ranks to arrange such a meeting. I also believe that while Sue Leslie of OHRIA should lead such a delegation, it would have a real impact if two or three high profile professionals (eg. Dr. Cal Stiller) who are associated with the racing industry were also involved.

High profile types (and there are many involved with the racing/breeding industry) travel in circles where there is a strong possibility they could pick up the phone and arrange face to face meetings. I know it is asking a lot of people, but desperate situations call for desperate measures.

I would encourage anyone who does have these kind of contacts (or knows someone who might) to contact Sue Leslie at OHRIA (416-679-0741) and offer to try and set up a meeting asap.

Cam McKnight

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