According to Premier Kathleen Wynne, all municipalities will have a say in casino expansion and those that don't want one won't be forced to host one. Does that mean the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp. will listen to the public, or just a municipality's elected officials?
In an article published Monday in the Peterborough Examiner one councillor shed light on that issue by stating that the casino debate currently ongoing in the Kawartha region will not be going to a referendum or any other sort of formal public input.
On Tuesday, Peterborough city council will hold a special meeting to receive community input before sending the formal notice of support to the OLG. Council already passed a motion expressing interest in hosting a casino. The 1997 referendum on hosting a casino voted against it, with 65 per cent saying no and subsequently giving the slots facility to Kawartha Downs in Fraserville, just outside of Peterborough.
“There’s no appetite for [Council to conduct] a referendum,” said Coun. Lesley Parnell. “Council has been elected by the citizens of Peterborough to make this decision...A referendum isn’t necessary.”
MPP Jeff Leal, who was one of the members of the Liberal Party that supported PC MPP Monte McNaughton's private members' bill to require municipalities to hold casino referendums, has also changed his tune on this matter and now feels that there simply needs to be "community engagement" on casino expansion.
“We’ve evolved from that position."
McNaughton's bill died when former Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued government in 2012. Another vocal opponent to the Liberal-OLG expansion, NDP MPP Taras Natyshak stated last week that he will table a private members' bill to pause the OLG modernization process.
Similarly in Woolwich Township, a recent poll conducted that provided 62 per cent of respondents against a casino in that municipality is being disregarded by Mayor Todd Cowan. In an interview with the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, he feels that the poll results are not indicative of the public sentiment despite more than 1,860 people taking part.
“(The survey) definitely plays a role. But it’s not always what you hear, it’s what you don’t hear,” Cowan said to The Record. “The 21,000 people who didn’t respond, we also have to consider that."
Woolwich Council will vote on Tuesday night after the second round of public meetings on the casino hosting issue. The vote comes just days after local TV station CTV Kitchener aired a four-part feature into how the OLG modernization strategy is affecting the local economy by severing its ties with the horse racing industry.
Despite a recent study commissioned by the Canadian Gaming Association showing that economic growth spurred by casinos is either short-term or non-existent, the Township has placed estimates at $4 million in annual hosting revenue.
Cowan told The Record that he doesn't know how yet he'll vote.