COBOURG – A recently released document has revealed that Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government had already made the decision to kill the Slots-at-Racetracks Program, even before receiving an economic analysis on Ontario’s horse racing industry.
That document, released today by PC MPPs Ted Arnott (Wellington-Halton Hills) and Randy Pettapiece (Perth-Wellington), offered confidential advice to cabinet on the economic impact of ending the Slots at Racetracks Program. That report is dated March 14, 2012 – two days after Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced he was ending the partnership between the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the province’s racetracks.
“This report highlights the arrogance of the Liberal government towards the horse-racing industry. Before having any idea how many thousands of jobs were on the line, they made the decision to cancel all support for the horse industry,” said Milligan. “It looks as if they just made up this report after the fact to justify the decisions they had already made.”
Milligan went on to question the legitimacy of the report’s findings, using as a reference the Liberal’s own 2004 budget, “This report is completely flawed in many respects. In 2004 the Budget boasted that the Slots at Racetracks program had preserved over 60,000 jobs, now this new report states removing it will cause losses of only 3,500 to 5,800 annually,” Milligan said. “You don’t have to be a math teacher to realize that something here doesn’t add up,” he added.
“The report dramatically understates the potential job losses and completely overlooks the true economic spin-offs the equine industry creates throughout rural Ontario,” Milligan observed. “The numbers in the report are very questionable, and likely won’t hold up under scrutiny.”
Milligan also noted the report’s finding that 11 of the 17 racetracks now operating across the province could shut down: “Locally, of course, people are particularly concerned about the future of Kawartha Downs. So the question is, which tracks will close, and why won’t they say?”
In June, the province announced a three-member transition panel on the future of the industry. Milligan has joined his PC Caucus colleagues in calling on the panel to recommend the reversal of the decision to destroy the horse industry in Northumberland-Quinte West and all across Ontario.
The panel’s recommendations are expected on August 17.