A government-appointed horse racing industry transition panel will do “squat” says Malcolm MacPhail.
MacPhail of Dover Centre, who served seven years as president of the Ontario Harness Horse Association, told The Chatham Daily News the three-member panel of former cabinet ministers will do little more than “take their wages and do what the government tells them to do.”
MacPhail, a race horse owner and trainer for the past 40 years, said the “writing is on the wall for the future of horse racing in Ontario – there is no future.”
But, at the same time, he’s optimistic there will be harness racing at least on Sundays during the 2013 season.
MacPhail said he shares that opinion with the majority of the more than 30 horse owners, drivers and trainers at Dresden’s “Little Saratoga” track.
Ted McMeekin, Ontario Minister of Agriculture and Food, told The Chatham Daily News this week he’s hoping the horse racing industry transition panel will recommend steps to help the industry “thrive and survive.”
McMeekin said he has a great deal of confidence in the three former provincial cabinet ministers – Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen and John Wilkinson.
“I don’t expect anything good will come from the panel recommendations,” said MacPhail, who also served as a director of the OHHA for 23 years. “It’s a big waste of time and money.”
MacPhail, noting the 2012 racing season at Dresden concluded on Labour Day, said local owners, drivers and trainers plan to “sit tight” and hope there will be a 2013 season.
The veteran horseman said he plans to sell off two of his four horses this fall because of the “bleak future” for the industry. He said many others are doing likewise.
But Brian Tropea of Campbellville, general manager of the OHHA, hopes MacPhail is wrong about the government-appointed panel.
“They are about our last hope for the industry,” he said. “Maybe it’s all smoke and mirrors but I’m hoping something good will come from the panel.”
Tropea said the government has already committed to a revenue sharing agreement with the horse racing industry up until March 31 of 2013.
But, he said, funding can’t be accessed by the association unless the track owner applies for the money.
“We are living in very uncertain times,” he said.
Tropea said the fact the governing Liberal party didn’t receive the majority it wanted in Thursday’s by-elections may work in favour of the horse racing industry.
Tropea is also counting on a private member’s bill approved at Queen’s Park last week to assist the industry.
PC MPP Lisa MacLeod’s private member’s bill calls on the auditor general to review the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp’s new gaming plans,
including its revenue and expenditure projections, mental health and addictions impact, and its effect on Ontario’s horse racing industry.
Tropea said the public gallery at Queen’s Park was overflowing with horse people last week when the bill received overwhelming support.
He said MacLeod is a long-time supporter of the racing industry and is passionate about her support for those involved in horse racing.