Ont. Racing Discussed In Question Period

Published: September 16, 2013 04:19 pm EDT

On Monday, September 16 during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature, Premier Kathleen Wynne defended the Ontario Liberals’ course of action in regard to the future of the provincial horse-racing industry.

Under questioning from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton -- who has recently been promoted to the role of PC Labour Critic -- Premier Wynne vowed that her government’s decisions will lead to a sustainable horse-racing industry in Ontario.

“My intention and my objective is to make sure that continues -- that we have a sustainable horse-racing industry well into the future,” said Wynne, who is also Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Food. “We’ve committed $180-million to allow for that transition to a more sustainable industry.”

“We have been clear that modernizing the system and integrating the horse-racing industry with the gaming industry has been a priority,” Wynne said. “That is the instruction we have given the OLG, that is the conversation we have been having. And we have been clear that having a sustainable horse-racing industry is our objective.”



First let me begin by stating that my family and myself have been in the horse racing industry for years in different capacities. Let me be perfectly clear, the days of having the privilege to enjoy the dominance of Ontario's gaming market are gone. The competition for the gambling dollar is going to increase ten-fold in the next 10 years just through online gaming alone, having very little overhead expenses with the possibility of BIG profits. Understand that governments across the western hemisphere are becoming more insolvent by the day just through a depleted tax base, combine that with the added costs of health care expenses of an aging populace. They will have no choice but to add revenue where they can with the least cost to them. Now to the subject at hand, much of the racing industry became a complacent boys club with no regard or appreciation for their cliental whatsoever, as a matter of fact they became an inconvenience once the slots at racetracks program was initiated. I think the racing industry should be ecstatic with the current deal the Ontario government negotiated. What other business do you know that receives an upfront payment and a percentage of a business that is not there own with no accountability on the money they receive? NOT many. If I opened a tire store, is the government going to give me 50,000.00 a year upfront payment with a 2% payment on all tires sold in Ontario. The answer is obvious, if I have a terrible location, run a bad business or have 10 other tire stores open within 20 square miles, its my problem and if I am unable to rectify that problem I simply go OUT OF BUSINESS. The time for Ontario's horseracing industries resurgence should have been when the slots program was introduced but instead was looked upon as cash for life. Please do not cry for any racetrack that ran a bad business, in fact they should have got what they deserve, NOTHING. You go ahead and ask somebody who has a family member that can't find a hospital bed that they should be supporting an industrial dinosaur such as horseracing, see if they give a dam. The reality is, if a business is not self sustainable because of either a lack of demand, a lack of interest or just poorly run then that business should fail or is it just another Too Big Fail.

It is nice to see that the Ontario Racing industry finally got some mention in the question period in parliment and I commend MPP Monte Mc Naughton on his robust attack on the Premier Kathleen Wynne.
MPP Monte Mc Naughton has spelled out the many concerns of the Standardbred Race industry with facts that are decimating the industry as we knew it when the SARP program was in place. Premier Wynn once again refers to the transitional panel which by all accounts now is just a money grab for some politicians in the Liberal caucus. Premier Wynne has promissed us change for the better in the past and has not kept her word so her credibilty has evolved to that of being a yes person for the Liberal caucus and not giving a genuine concern for the Standardbred Racing industry. It will not be until the existing government is toppled that we have any chance of survival and I hope we that are in the industry can only last long enough to see the change that should take place when a more concerning government is elected to protect the people of rural Canada in their bid to make a living in a sport that for years has been a part of our heritage. It just sickens me when I hear Premier Wynne talk about a mere
$ 180,000. the government has spent to revitalize the Standardbred industry while millions of dollars have been lost while waiting for this so clalled rescue by the transitional panel. It is not transparent and we the horsemen continually get the run around and no concrete answers. When will the bleeding

OHRIA and other members should ask to be present when they discuss horseracing so they can set them straight on numbers etc. and let them know they are too late.

The industry continues to unravel and as you read and hear about track closures and horsemen closing up shop, I read a comment from David Dolezal on FB about completing his highlights – memoirs.

I found the read a good one but at the same time, it reminded me of what our industry is losing. With his permission, I am posting it on my FB page as well.

Below is a recap of his response to me in part—

“…For your information, the way the “memoirs” came about is accidental. I was contacted by Tom White who works for The Red Mile, the Little Brown Jug and free-lances for Hoof Beats about doing a piece about me in the April Issue of Hoof Beats. Neither Tom nor I have the retentive minds of young writers, so I thought I’d research some of my harness career highlights upon which Tom could base his interview. This way we would be factually accurate. As I reviewed old documents, meeting minutes, ancient magazines published as early as the seventies, questioned old friends and colleagues I made copious notes. I arranged the note in some logical order, began transcribing the scribbles into sentences, paragraphs and pages and voila—I had the manuscript I sent you.As Paul Harvey used to say . . “Now, you have the rest of the story!” (and a sermonette too..)David

“ Two if my earliest Canadian shareholders, directors and “champions” of TIMES: in harness were Bob Burgess and Harold Shipp. (Pete Heffering had US and Canadian nationality.) Many Canadians supported our attempt to serve as the medium to give recognition to those who have the greatest investment in racing; yet, are mainly ignored by trade press—The OWNERS. My earlier publication, HUB RAIL also was owner-centric. Both continually called attention to this omission by the trade press, including the publicity arms of some of the harness associations along with track publicists. Perhaps this is a primary reason no editor, writer, artist, photographer has been selected by harness writers to the communicator’s corner of the Hall of Fame in Goshen. Their inclusion in the Museum is almost the raison d’etre for this corner. (Note: there are several enshrined “communicators” who devoted some of their labors to the publications we published; however, all were selected because of their labors in other vineyards. People like Don Millar, Stan Bergstein, Marv Bachrad, George Smallsreed, etc.)Sorry, I sometime get carried away when I think of those who sacrificed so much to enhance the literature, journalistic integrity, photography and art, as well as economic contribution of owners and others who seem to be shunned by those who should know better, I get up in the pulpit.

Thanks David for allowing me to share your story. It is a reminder of what is good in this industry, what it has done not only for yourself but hundreds who followed and remain.

The question now is, what does the future hold?

Betty Burkitt

I appreciated the passion shown by Mr. McNaughton. What is lacking here is any form of proposal by the Conservatives on how to fix the problem created by the Liberals. The White Paper produced by the Conservatives is a one page fluff piece about the agriculture section in general and one paragraph on horse racing. As I have said before it is a paper that a high school student would be embarassed to hand in.

Mr. McNaughton is definitely our friend but his party just can't make inroads on a Liberal government backed by the NDP.

Georg Leber-ICR Racing

Ok, so When will we have the numbers and details.The racing industry needs to know how many racing dates in total there will be and how many race dates that each of the Tracks that are still involved will be getting.The people in the racing industry need to have answers soon so they can plan their lives going forward.

I have only 3 brief comments..1) thank heavens we have MPP Monte McNaughton.I have talked to him several times and he really does give a damn!!2)Clearly the Premier is NOT totally informed when she refers to it as a racing 'season'.Someone should tell her it's a year round racing 'industry'.3)What on earth is taking the famous 'transition panel'so long to file their REPORT.

Pass legislation that "The Ontario Horsemens Association" represents the owners, trainers and Grooms to represent them in ALL harness racing!
They should draft a constatution, bylaws and contracts.
A contract should be let to a large corporation to advertize on ALL horse trailers in North America.
Sponsors should be solicited similar to Nascar.
An Ontario team should be formed for compete with other provinces for a Canadian
Championship. We should get bids for the championship name.
The team that becomes Canadian Champions should then challenge the Americans for a series of races, ending in a world championship.
Equipment must be updated as well as uniforms.
We should encourage track owners to havespecial nights for athletic teams.
I organized a Florida Panthers night at Pompane and the track manager stating it was the best program they ever had. The place was packed. Each player had to bring an autografted hockey stick as their ticket to get in. We had a draw for them. They bring many of their fans to the game. The track supplied a complete dinner to each player and thier partners.Bud Burke