NDP To Re-Introduce Anti-Modernization Motion

Published: February 28, 2013 12:23 pm EST

Ontario's opposition parties have been quite vocal in giving verbal support for the province's beleaguered horse-racing industry. Front and centre in the year-long crisis have been PC MPP Monte McNaughton and NDP MPP Taras Natyshak. If observers have thought their criticism of the Ontario Liberals' handling of the horse-racing industry was going to cease, they are dead wrong.

A report by The London Free Press has quoted both MPPs, and they provided comments that many perceive to cut right to the bone of the drawn-out issue.

Speaking of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who appointed herself Agricultural Minister just a few weeks ago, McNaughton said that he believes she is completely out of touch with the decimation of the primarily rural horse-racing industry because she "doesn't understand the seriousness" of what is happening within the industry. McNaughton added that he believes "it’s the fact that we have a premier who represents downtown Toronto. They just don’t care about jobs outside Toronto.”

The article explains that Natyshak has said that the Ontario Liberals have intentionally misconstrued the semantics regarding the provincial horse-racing industry's capital.

Under the current slots-at-racetrack agreement, provincial horse racing receives its fair, contractual share of slot-machine revenue. That agreement is due to the fact that in the late '90s racetracks gave up their provincial gaming monopoly in order to allow the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. to rent space within racetracks to allow the Ontario Government to make billions of slots, which are a direct form of gambling competition for tracks located right within racetrack walls. The Ontario Government partnered with the Ontario horse-racing industry because the public would not accept gaming --- especially casino gaming --- in urban areas. For roughly a decade and a half, the Ontario Government and the OLG publicly lauded the windfall at every opportunity it had --- especially at every fiscal quarter.

When the OLG announced its controversial gaming modernization plan, the wording from the Ontario Government and the OLG couldn't have pulled more of a 180. The lauded, bilateral revenue-sharing agreement apparently turned into a burdensome 'subsidy' overnight, according to the OLG, the reigning Ontario Liberals, and the now ex-Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

With the OLG and the Ontario horse-racing industry every day getting closer to the March 31, 2013 termination of the equally beneficial slots-at-racetracks program, the Ontario Liberal Government has reached a tentative, post-SARP agreement which will now see the Province of Ontario truly and purely subsidize racing at Woodbine Racetrack and Mohawk Racetrack for at least the next two years. Now a true subsidy in its purest form, the Ontario Liberal Government has opted to label it as a 'transitional agreement.'

“There were no public dollars involved in the slot-at-racetracks partnership," said Natyshak, who is also the NDP's labour critic. "It was a fund that was based on the discretionary and disposable income of those who bet and wagered at racetrack facilities.

“So now we’re in a position where the government is using public dollars to fund what remains of the industry at such a small number from what they fully know is required to substantially entice not only those who race horses but those who bet on horses.”

After calling out the Ontario Liberals on their calculated misconstruing of the situation, Natyshak cut to the bone. “They (the Ontario Liberals) are hell-bent on dismantling this industry. What they have done here with this decision is a perfect example of how you would go about dismantling an entire industry . . . There’s nothing here that says they want to promote the industry, to continue the industry, to sustain it. They want to shrink it, divest their involvement in it and move on to private corporate casinos.”

According to The London Free Press report, Natyshak has said that he plans to reintroduce the previous motion put forth by Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath last fall. The motion calls for a pause to the OLG modernization process. Natyshak is expected to re-introduce the motion in the coming weeks via a private members motion.

(With files from The London Free Press)



Mr. Yamakva,

I really think we're on the same page here. I don't want people to go to a casino and a horse race breaks out-I see the problems within our industry. You mention NASCAR, golf, and curling, but to reiterate, they all have single governing bodies overseeing every aspect of their sport. We need that too. An umbrella organization. Without that first, we're all going to keep heading in circles trying to figure how to become a sustainable industry. I'm not downplaying the important role of each horse racing association in Ontario, but we need to mature into a unified body in order to become worthy of future investors, handicappers, fans, and outright marketable value.

Your input is important as one of horse racing's customers and yes, Jeff Gural has it right...

In reply to by Claudette L.

Ms. lemesurier,

You call it what you like, but begging would be what it is. Pleading would also work, but reality is slots killed horse racing. You are begging the government to reinstate a program that rewards you, by taking money from a completely seperate revenue generating business.

Ask yourself this, with the way things are with slots, and how more people show up to play machines and not watching horse racing, how does people going back to those machines make the sport better?

The answer is simple, it doesn't. I'm not taking away how hard you all work, nor suggesting it isn't sad you are all not getting slot money, but other than the racetrAck agreeing to these machines, what have you done to earn the slot revenue? Simply race? That's not good enough. It's possible to race for $4,000 in Sudbury, and have maybe 30 people watching the race.

Just because in the past you honored horses, and not drivers, does not mean it should remain that way. Take hints from other sports that are big time now and got with the times. Just cuz drivers were not a big deal before, does not mean they shouldn't be now. Movies used to use string and models for special effects, but it got with the time. Curling introduced a free guard rule and skins game cause the old way was boring. Golf and NASCAR introduced play offs. Forget what you used to do, or what it was, that mentality bored fans and your incredibly low handle and empty stands show this.

Remember, I'm part of the people you need, race fans. We bet our hard earned money on your races, and percentage of my wagers go to you horseman. I see nothing and get nothing from slots. Reality is you need more people tuning in, and asking us to feel sorry for people .... Like those racing in Sudbury for thousands of dollars of slot money, while us fans get unbettable races, tiny pools, races where there is often huge mismatched horses.

Drivers, horses, betting contests, concerts, ladies night's or what ever is what you need..... Hoping people come for the horses, isn't working. You need a total chAnge in the game. New Jersey has it right.

the NDP should do some thing!! they really dropped the ball when it came to voting on the Budget. The "Budget"!!! the most important vote of the 4 year term and not one of them voted!!!! Just more backroom deals!! Next electon if the PC have a "brown dog" running in my riding. id vote for it!!

In reply to by Will Yamakva

"The horses are retired too early, so what is the point of them being the draw?"

You're right! Several changes need to be made in order for this industry to become viable and sustainable. We need to create aged pacing and trotting series so that owners will invest the time and money to keep these horses on the track longer so that they can become "fan favorites". The ORC has put an age limit on race horses of 14 years, so why are they being shipped off to the breeding shed at 3 years old? Because there was more money in breeding than purses-Less risk too. Ask anyone who Dan Patch was and they'll know, ask them who drove him and they won't, which is why we are honoring Dan Patch Award Winners today instead of Harry Hersey Awards (his driver).

As far as Gural's changes to the Meadowlands-I agree! He's done a remarkable job at creating a product that can bring in people and get them to spend, however, his thoughts are similar to mine: 'By discouraging horses from retiring at three, Gural believes his efforts "will work" in generating renewed interest in racing's stars..' He's referring to the horses as stars, not the owners/drivers or trainers. He's also involved many people in the industry in order to create the "framework" for a great facility.

"You all got too cozy, and did nothing to promote YOUR horses. Blaming the track is no good, they dont own the horses, you do."

Once again, I agree with you. Our industry needs to become current, including social media, organized campaign and marketing objectives, and accountability.

"If they worked on bringing fans, rather than arrange these rallies that no one attends, you might have a chance."

Phasing out SARP properly would have allowed us a greater chance to become self-supportive.

The only thing I don't agree with you on is the fact that we're "begging" the government. I don't know of an industry with more hardworking people. People who get up at 5:00am to go to the barn and sometimes don't get back to the house until midnight; people who haven't seen a vacation in years because their horses come first; people who risk their lives every time they get behind the starting gate; people who hope and dream that this foal could be the next NA Cup winner. All this JUST so they can fulfill a lifelong passion of being in the midst of their race horses-That's not laziness, it's a lack of direction, which we all agree we need right now.

In reply to by Claudette L.

"As far as trying to turn Jody Jamieson or Doug McNair into a "celebrity", I don't think for one minute that any of us in this industry is vying for that status, in fact, it's the race horses that should be the first "celebrities" in this sport, then drivers"

That is backwards thinking. You need RACING FANS. Any fans of anyone is good. The horses are retired too early, so what is the point of them being the draw? Also, how many of the top name horses race week to week at the same venue? None. They travel around for stakes where the money is. You need people at the track, betting money.

1) Im not standing up for the government, but why should they consult the industry when the industry cant support itself? You cant even see the problem, so why would they ask you?

Again, I point to Meadowlands, where they have FAR less races a night than Ontario, they have FAR more fans on track. They have FAR more wagering going on. THAT is the goal you should be striving for.

2) There was a deal in place and the horse people assumed it would last forever, so you did nothing to improve your situation, and eventually this would be looked at, and the eventuality might come that they might move the slots. You all got too cozy, and did nothing to promote YOUR horses. Blaming the track is no good, they dont own the horses, you do.

Your point about curling, was bang on, but go a step further, like they did. They did not have just the Ontario curling associations in on this, the Canadian Curling association made sure even the most trivial events were televised.

"March 31, 2013 is approaching and with no resolution in sight and no funding for commercials or self promotion, what are we to do"

For one, look at the site here, and look at all the suggestions and efforts going to begging the government to not make more racing fans, but to allow people to ignore racing, and put coins in a slot so you can all get paid. If half of that energy went into calling your friends and creating a buzz around your own horses, that would be a start. Also, look how many people you all have working to beg the government. If they worked on bringing fans, rather than arrange these rallies that no one attends, you might have a chance.

Meadowlands should be your hero, instead, on this site, it easier to complain about something that was not working to begin with. Any time a card has a more in purses given out, than money bet, the system is broken. Period.

Mr. Yamakva, I agree with you 100%. If the government would have approached us after reviewing the Drummond report and said, "Hey, we're going to make some changes here and within 5 years we will be phasing out SARP", it would have at least gave us time to ensure some type of sustainability within our industry. There's no doubt we need to market and promote our sport, as well as secure corporate sponsorships and advertising.

As far as trying to turn Jody Jamieson or Doug McNair into a "celebrity", I don't think for one minute that any of us in this industry is vying for that status, in fact, it's the race horses that should be the first "celebrities" in this sport, then drivers.

My point in the previous comment was that the government made a rash and uneducated financial decision without consulting any sector in the racing industry, or any horse racing associations affiliated with our members. A panel should have been created that included all agricultural sectors in order to phase out SARP.

As far as curling, you're right, they have put themselves up in the ranks as far as self promotion and sustainability, and I think the reason for that is they have two single governing bodies that oversee all aspects of their sport in Ontario. The Ontario Curling Association, in charge of Southern Ontario, and the Northern Ontario Curling Association, in charge of Northern Ontario. We too must follow that path. If a sponsor knew that their product would be seen at 15 racetracks instead of one, they would be more inclined to invest in advertising.

March 31, 2013 is approaching and with no resolution in sight and no funding for commercials or self promotion, what are we to do? Our voices are free advertising, and considering the circumstances that have been thrusted upon us, we should certainly be entitled to use them.

In reply to by Claudette L.

Ms Lemesurier.....

Harness racing has not done any promotion of itself, and when I bring it up here, many horseman blame the tracks. How is it the responsibility of the track to make Jody Jamieson or Doug McNair into celebrities?

Whatever associations them, and you belong to, are spending money lobbying, when it should be producing tv programs for the masses. Curing Associations paid networks to show the events. They paid the productions costs and made curlers into stars. There is nothing close to that for harness.

Hence curling has more fans than harness.

figure out how to change that, and you will get the fans back and betting on your product

Our only source of mainstream media/advertising at this very moment is simulcast, and racing programs that air on HPiTV--This is not enought to get our message out there.

Commentators should be talking about the state of the industry in between races. If you are a driver, trainer, or an owner, and someone puts a camera in front of you for an interview, ensure that people know what the government is doing to horse racing; Talk about the breeding that had to happen in order for your horse to even be at that track; Talk about the people that you employed in order for you to have this opportunity--Let's start to promote ourselves!

The squeaky sulky wheel gets the grease!

I think that if Andrea would make a statement like Mr Natyshak it might give us a little more confidence that she really cared about the horse racing industry. She said today in parliament that she would put the government down if the Liberals didn't include a 15% reduction in auto insurance. Are we ,60,000 of us not worth as much as an insurance policy. Andrea get some backbone. You know that this is an unjust and inhumane decision. Aside from the jobs, homes,trucks and families that are going to be lost there are thousands of horses that will be unjustly slaughtered because of this decision. I don't know why the politians are letting this happen. They know that it will be a disaster for the province's finances and for all of us . Lip service will only goes so far. The buck stops here. Stand up and do what is right.If not for us then do it for the helpless equine animals. They are the innocent pawns in all of this. Please do something and I think an election is what needs to happen.

Having casinos at racetracks still does not insure horse racing will take place. For the most part, the general public is not interested in the racing aspect. Do a poll! What the public is interested is the human side of the story. The only way to make them aware of this is by the horsemen blockading the casinos. All this talk and political rhetoric will accomplish nothing for us. OHHA, are you listening.

In reply to by barnbill

Bill you hit the nail on the head if and that's a big if the motion ever got as far as a vote in the house it's not binding - it's symbolic only, another feel good, you see we care move by a politician.
The cold hard truth is and these politicians think we are all stupid.
The NDP could have shut the process down last year by simply voting against the budget thereby causing an election. They took the coward's way out by abstaining and therefore have no standing to be the anyone's savior. I've said it before people but not too many listen the NDP is not and never has been a friend to racing.

In reply to by barnbill

Motions maybe non binding the RELEVANCE is that it keeps the cause front and center and if its supported with an overwhelming majority does that not send a message to the govt and one of hope to all involved. Whats that saying "Beggars cant be choosers".

I'm happy they are making such an effort on our behalf. They know the real story. But unfortunately, it will take a lot more than non-binding motions to stop the vindictive civil servants in the Finance Department who got, and probably still get, their marching orders from Dwight Duncan. They will not be dissuaded from their mission to dismantle racing and give the OLG the full gambling monopoly they and their casino cohorts crave. They're close to success now. It will take much more extreme measures to stop this: 1) the firing of those in the Finance Dept. who are in charge 2) the refusal of the racetracks to sign these lopsided "agreements in principle" 3)and finally the absolute refusal of the horsemen to accept this paltry subsidy offer in any form--we MUST DEMAND TO BE PART OF ANY OLG GAMING COMMUNITY GOING FORWARD, AND BE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN GAMING REVENUES AT OUR FACILITIES ! I don't know if horsemen and horsewomen have the resolve to take the risks necessary to achieve this. The government has bet that we won't.

"Natyshak has said that he plans to reintroduce the previous motion put forth by Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath last fall. The motion calls for a pause to the OLG modernization process. Natyshak is expected to re-introduce the motion in the coming weeks via a private-members motion."

irrelevant...........motions are non-binding on the government

The Liberals are bad news everywhere. Google "Ontario manufacturing decline" to see how the Federal government documents the loss of 220,000 manufacturing jobs (a 20 % decline) since 2004. Now they wipe out the 2nd largest agricultural sector in rural Ontario and 60,000 more jobs. Eventually when all the farms turn to weeds and all the manufacturing jobs are gone, everyone will be working for the government(including EI and Ontario Works). Don't hold your breath for one of those consultant jobs paying 2 or 3,000 dollars a day plus expenses working for Ornge or E-Health either.

We are all well aware the Liberal Government and their OLG hit squad don*t care about this devestation they are forcing on Rural Ontario. It is frustrating, to the extreme trying to get your head around destroying such a prosperous program for NOTHING which is what we the taxpayers will end up with. I for one applaud those opposition party members for their determined ongoing support on our behalf! Hopefully justice will prevail, even if it means calling an election to show these folks how disgusted we are with their unending attack on our democratic rights! Please don*t stop your needed attacks on these heartless tyrants! I and my horses need you!

At last a two pronged attack from the opposition parties this could and should be the first of many still not to late to breed but its getting close ....... The tractor aint going up the 401 just yet these two gents are representing their communities and the industry as a whole with the passion we have all been showing ....... lets rally round them .......

We need all MPP's to get on board like Taras & Monte maybe honest MPP's will join in. Thank You Taras & Monte now talk to your leaders about being as loud.

Doubtful we will see this in any Toronto or Godfrey newspapers. I hope we do because like it or not our fate is in the hands of Toronto citizens.The less they know the better for OLG and the liberals, the only info they get is lobbyists propaganda. Everynight, every Toronto TV station does live traffic reports, if there were a couple hundred trucks and trailers in downtown Toronto it would bring an already busy area to a standstill, a couple hundred entering the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway would also get coverage.We wouldn't have to block any traffic it will just happen naturally.Sounds like free publicity to me, and to the people we need to target.Maybe do laps aroung OLG headquarters or a Godfrey business,we got to do something

i say if nothing sensible comes out by the end of March the only sensible thing to do is to everyday have one track block all the entrances to the grounds with truck and trailers and only let people allready in out and nobody else come in and see how the Liberals will like that, very easy to do, i am sure it would be easy to find trucks and trailers to block casino parking lots entrances, maybe even have all the casino's blocked everyday, why not, and only unblocked them on race days, just a thought !!!!!