Today, Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, released the following statement on the status of consultations being led by the horse racing transition panel:
“On June 7th, I announced that three former cabinet ministers — Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen and John Wilkinson — would lead consultations with the horse racing industry to help them transition from the Slots at Racetracks program to a more sustainable model.
I have received an interim report. The panel has concluded the government made the right decision to end the Slots at Racetracks program — a program that cost taxpayers $345 million a year. The panel said it would be a mistake to reinstate the program — going so far as to call it ‘poor public policy.’
The panel also advises that a viable horse racing industry requires ongoing funding to maintain attractive purses, sustain tracks, support breeding and grow a robust betting system.
Our government committed $50 million over the next three years to help transition the industry. The panel believes that a greater investment is required.
Our government is focused on balancing its budget while protecting vital services that families rely on, like health care and education. That’s why any public transitional investment in the horse racing industry must include clear public-interest principles of fiscal accountability, transparency, a renewed focus on the consumer and a business case showing that each public dollar invested is returned to the province through tax revenues. This means the industry needs to display financial transparency.
The government has asked the panel to consult further with the industry to determine its willingness to work together in such a way that recognizes the public interest and the current fiscal climate.
I expect to receive a final report no later than the end of September.”