A Tim Hudak government would insist Toronto hold a referendum on building a casino even if city council has already approved one, the Progressive Conservative leader said Monday.
“Our position is clear — we would not support any new casino sites unless first there was a referendum of support from the community,” Hudak said.
“This has been a long-standing PC policy. A government I lead would ensure there was a referendum before you would consider any new casinos.”
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford supports developing a casino if it would help the city’s finances but he needs to convince a majority of councillors to buy in.
Council’s left wing is solidly against the idea and it’s not clear how much enthusiasm there is for the plan among some other councillors.
But a positive report on a casino’s potential financial impact was released Monday and will go before the mayor’s executive committee next week.
If approved there, the issue could come to council by early 2013.
Hudak’s referendum hurdle represents another very real problem for casino backers.
Currently leading in polls, Hudak and his PCs are likely to get a chance at winning power in Ontario as early as March, as three-term Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty has announced his retirement.
McGuinty’s replacement will be chosen in January, with his successor likely to bring back the legislature for a throne speech and budget shortly afterwards.
If Hudak were to win office in the spring, he said a council vote would not be enough for him to approve a Toronto gambling palace, saying he doesn’t believe gambling revenues are the answer to Ontario’s economic woes.
“It’s something I believe in; it’s something the caucus believes in,” Hudak said of a casino referendum.