OFA: Wynne Must Pick Up The Pace

Published: June 17, 2013 08:58 am EDT

Stating that the provincial government needs "to step up and take action instead of producing reports," the President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture has called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to take action now to help sustain Ontario's horse racing industry, an "important industry that supports farmers, businesses and rural communities, and returns substantial revenue and tax dollars to Queen’s Park".

The open letter from OFA President Mark Wales appears below.

Ontario government needs to pick up the pace to sustain the horse racing industry

The provincial government is going in circles when it comes to the Ontario horse racing industry. Since the announcement cancelling the Slots at Racetrack program in March 2012, we’ve seen numerous reports from the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel, a group of former Ontario cabinet ministers tasked with working with the horse racing industry and consulting on the sector’s transition. And now we can expect another report this month. But our industry needs less talk and more action.

Premier Wynne has reportedly requested the transition panel develop a plan that will sustain the future of horse racing in Ontario. The new plan will be aimed at:

  • Modernizing the governance and regulation of the horse racing industry

  • Growing the fan base and providing more wagering options

  • Providing ongoing government support

  • Ensuring animal welfare

A draft plan for consultation is due this month, with a final plan to be complete by October 2013. But the Ontario horse racing industry can’t wait for another report hoping for a long-term lifeline to save this once thriving sector. We’ve seen too little and it may already be too late.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) wants Premier Wynne and her government to step up and take action instead of producing reports. We need to secure the future of this important industry that supports farmers, businesses and rural communities, and returns substantial revenue and tax dollars to Queen’s Park.

Every aspect of our province’s horse racing industry – from breeding farms to feed stores and veterinarians – has seen revenues slashed and thousands of jobs lost in Ontario since the cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks program 18 months ago. A sector that once provided 60,000 jobs throughout rural Ontario now stands to lose 26,000 racing horses and the associated jobs and spin off revenue to business and rural communities.

And those losses are piling up. Many Ontario breeding programs were cancelled and mare herds culled when the value of Ontario’s standardbred breeding industry dissolved overnight. Standardbred breeding in Ontario actually dropped by 30%. The annual fall yearling sales – once an important sales opportunity for the industry – are now a discouraging affair. In 2012, prices at fall yearling sales dropped an average 42% over 2011.

Ontario’s horse racing industry and everything it touches is in crisis. We don’t need another report to tell us how to make the horse racing industry work – we need action before we lose our industry.

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