FOR BRANT NEWS
In May of 2012 I wrote to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, as well as the premier, outlining my opinion and recommendations on the horse racing industry in Ontario.
The outcome was that the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs 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 and transform the industry to a sustainable model.
Last week the minister received an interim report from the panel. In short, the panel agreed with the government’s decision to end the Slots at Tracks program.
The panel also advised that a viable horse racing industry requires ongoing funding to maintain attractive purses, sustain tracks, support breeding and grow a robust betting system.
As I wrote in my correspondence to both ministers and the premier, it was important to me that the government help the industry with transition and transformation assistance, so that they can indeed remain viable.
I was encouraged when the government announced $50 million over the next three years to help transition the industry. I agree with the panel that a greater investment is still required.
In response, 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.
As the government deals with their budget over the next few years, any public transitional investment in the horse racing industry must include clear principles. Those include fiscal accountability, transparency and a focus on ensuring that any public dollars that are invested into the horse racing industry is returned to the province through tax revenues.
The government is expecting to receive the final report no later than the end of September 2012.
Should you wish to review a copy of the report when it is made available, please contact my office at 519-759-0361 or visit my website at www.davelevac.on.ca.
Dave Levac is MPP for Brant and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.