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Leslie Defends OHRIA Report, Issues Update On Fort Erie

Published: August 13, 2012 12:22 pm ET

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While the report commissioned by the OHRIA Task Force took some criticism, OHRIA President Sue Leslie has gone on the record defending it as well as its author Stan Sadinsky.

"The report needs to be really thoroughly read by people because the report does not exclude anyone," said Leslie. "There's lots of mobility. Up, down, sideways. We know that we have a government that wants the industry to shrink so I don't want to lead anyone to believe it's not going to shrink. It is going to shrink but hopefully in the most tolerable way with the least amount of hardship for people."

Given that the horse racing industry is light on details for how the OLG will proceed with slot operations currently located at racetracks, Leslie said the Task Force kept things flexible.

"There's so many different ways this can be approached by the OLG. They obviously had one plan in mind when they started out on this revitalization plan but I think they're finding that maybe it's not as simple as they thought it was going to be."

Expressing the need for a new industry model going forward, Leslie noted that the Task Force couldn't come forward with a plan that

"There's some disappointment with some in our industry that OHRIA has come out with a plan that doesn't stick to 17 tracks and 10-10. It would have been very easy for the OHRIA task force and the OHRIA board to put a plan out there that the industry would have loved and said 'rah, rah OHRIA!' but that the government wouldn't even look at," stated Leslie. "OHRIA is doing everything it can to maximize other income to the industry so that as many racetracks and as many horsepeople and breeders can survive as possible."

The full interview as posted on HBPA's website is available below.

In a letter to the Ontario HBPA, Leslie provides more clarity on the OHRIA Report as well as an update on the future of Fort Erie. Leslie notes that the HBPA has met with PC Leader Tim Hudak on tryingto save the historic track. Leslie's letter to the HBPA appears below.

Since the Ontario government’s announcement regarding the termination of the Slots At Racetracks (SAR) Program I have been in personal contact with many of our members and would like to thank those of whom I have spoken with for expressing your views and for your support during these challenging times.

For the past three months the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) has had a Task Force in place, advised by Stanley Sadinsky, which studied the industry’s future and created a plan for horse racing and breeding in Ontario. The OHRIA Task Force gave in depth consideration to the needs of all stakeholders. It should be recognized that the Plan is not the final picture for Ontario. The Plan is a roadmap to, how in partnership with government, the industry will chart it own course into the future.

The OHRIA Plan asks the government for a $210 million Development Fund which would allow Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Quarter Horse to continue to race but with fewer days. The plan includes 167 days of thoroughbred racing at Woodbine Racetrack and allows for all race tracks, including Fort Erie Race Track, to apply to the fund to operate live racing. Consolidation of the industry and dates was a prerequisite of any sort of government participation.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has established gaming zones in the province as part of their modernization plan for gaming; Fort Erie Race Track was not included in any of the 29 gaming zones established by the OLG. The HBPA of Ontario has written a letter to Rod Phillips, President and Chief Executive Officer of the OLG requesting that Fort Erie be added to a gaming zone in South Western Ontario. This would allow the track to participate in new forms of gaming such as a card room, sports book and a bingo hall, even if slots at Fort Erie Race Track are not part of the government’s modernization plan in the future.

In late July the Board of OHRIA approved and submitted the Task Force’s Plan to the OMAFRA panel which was put in place by the provincial government to study the transition funding for the racing and breeding industry in Ontario.

We recently met with Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak to pressure him for help to save Fort Erie Race Track and horse racing in Ontario. Once again we ask all HBPA of Ontario members for their continued support during what has proven to be the most difficult time in our sport’s history.

We wish to reassure HBPA of Ontario members and their thousands of employees that the HBPA will continue to lobby to protect the horse racing and breeding industry in this province.

We must impress upon you to please continue to send your personal letters to your local MPPs and to meet with them in their ridings to make sure they understand the value of horse racing in Ontario.

On another matter of great importance to Owners, the Supreme Court of Canada has now released its decision in the case of The Queen v. John Craig concerning section 31 of the Income Tax Act. Section 31 limits the ability of taxpayers to deduct farming losses against other income. Section 31 does not apply to a taxpayer whose chief source of income is farming or a combination of farming and another source. Mr. Craig won his case.

Prior to this decision, the applicable Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the 1978 case of Moldowan was that section 31 would limit a taxpayer where farming was subordinate to the taxpayer’s other sources of income. In today’s decision, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that this was not a correct interpretation of the law. Rather, the Court states that section 31 will not apply to a taxpayer where the farming activity of the taxpayer is a business and not a personal endeavour and where the taxpayer places significant emphasis on his or her farming business. While a definition of “significant emphasis” is not provided, the Court states that one looks at the factors of the capital invested, the income generated, the time spent and the taxpayer’s ordinary mode of living, farming history and future intentions and expectations to determine whether a sufficiently significant emphasis is placed on farming so as to be outside section 31.

Whether section 31 applies to you will depend on your particular circumstances. If you believe that this case is relevant to your tax position, you should consult your own tax advisor.

~ Sue Leslie, HBPA

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