QUEEN’S PARK – In yet another move toward privatization, the Wynne Liberals are pressuring Ontario’s Horse and Harness Association (OHHA) to sign on to a long-term funding deal with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the private, for-profit Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG); a move that Ontario NDP MPP for Essex, Taras Natyshak, says will have disastrous ripple effects on the racing and breeding sector.
“In 2012, the Liberal government suddenly and unilaterally decided to kill the highly successful Slots at Racetrack program,” Natyshak said. “Since then, we’ve seen the destruction of a once vibrant horse racing and breeding industry that supplied 65,000 good jobs in rural Ontario.”
Natyshak pointed out that the Wynne Liberals’ move to hand over control of nearly $2 billion in funding to the private, for-profit WEG, and coercing OHHA to sign on to the deal with a mere 10 days’ notice, without any consultation with smaller tracks, will have negative impacts across the sector, especially if they continue to be squeezed out of receiving those dollars — as they fear. He indicated that, worse, the Liberal government is going ahead despite warnings from their very own special advisor to the horse-racing sector.
“When Greg Walling, the government’s special advisor on the horse racing industry, resigned last fall, he had a warning for the Premier,” Natyshak said. “He said ‘Beware of Woodbine’s dominant position. In the proposed structures of administration, not only are they a player, they are the scorekeeper and referee.’”
“The Premier ignored this warning and handed over near-monopoly control of horse racing to this private, for-profit corporation,” Natyshak said.
The tracks and horse people are being given a deadline of May 1st to decide whether to sign off on the arrangement.
"Will the Premier withdraw this arbitrary rush deadline, and take the time to listen to the concerns of horse people and smaller tracks," Natyshak asked.