August 30, 2014

Horse Racing Gives Liberal MPPs An Earful at Rallies in Local Ridings

Ontario’s horse racing industry spoke out today (March 30) at rallies across the province
against the decision announced by the Liberal government and Ontario Lottery and
Gaming Corp. (OLG) to end the Slots-At-Racetracks program by March 2013.

The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) hosted rallies in
support of Ontario horse racing and the Slots-At-Racetracks program at the
offices of 11 Liberal MPPs including Christopher Bentley (London West), Laurel
C. Broten, (Etobicoke—Lakeshore), Kim Craitor (Niagara Falls), Dwight Duncan
(Windsor—Tecumseh), Jeff Leal (Peterborough), Dave Levac (Brant), Ted McMeekin
(Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale), John Milloy (Kitchener Centre), Liz
Sandals (Guelph), Joe Dickson, (Ajax—Pickering), and Deborah Matthews (London
North Centre).

“This is one step of a multi-faceted plan to attempt to influence the
government decision,” OHRIA’s Dave Drew was quoted as saying at the Niagara
Falls rally in a video report by the Fort
Erie Times
. “Our hope is that the Ontario Horse Racing Industry
Association can sit down with the government and have some constructive
discussions about alternatives. We understand there is a deficit that has to be
dealt with, but we would like the opportunity to sit down with the government
and review other options, other possibilities, other than the current plan
related to Slots-At-Racetracks.”

Horse racing industry representatives shared stories of their own personal
involvement in racing and contributions to their local economies at the various
rallies. Representatives also presented the facts and figures illustrating
Ontario’s horse racing industry’s value to the overall provincial economy while
dispelling the inaccuracies presented by the Liberal leaders in recent weeks.
Among the speakers were owners, drivers, trainers, and breeders from the
standardbred, thoroughbred and quarter horse breeds.

“Minister Duncan, it’s time to put the facts first. It’s time to stop this
shameful attack on our industry that brings $2 billion to the Ontario economy,”
standardbred owner Lou Liebenau was quoted as saying by InsideToronto.com
at the Etobicoke—Lakeshore rally.

Liebenau addressed the misrepresentation of facts about Ontario horse racing
by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, who had publicly questioned the figure of
60,000 jobs supported within the industry. Liebenau pointed to reports by
Duncan’s fellow Liberal ministers that supported those figures.

During Winsdor’s rally, Brian Tropea, general manager of the Ontario Harness
Horse Association (OHHA), provided those reports to Duncan’s office.

“Part of the reason we’re here today is to clear up some misconceptions, some
misinformation, some downright lies about our industry that you’ve been
hearing,” Tropea says in a video report from the rally by the Windsor
Star
. “You’ve been hearing the word ‘subsidy’ a lot. It’s not a
subsidy. The horse racing industry receives 20 per cent of the revenue from the
Slots-At-Racetracks [program]. If anyone is being subsidized it’s the
government. They take 80 per cent of the revenues.”

“The way this was handled by the Liberal government and Dwight Duncan was
very underhanded,” added long-time horseman Bob McIntosh. “They pushed it
through using the OLG because they knew it wouldn’t pass in the legislation and
they sprung it on us with no time to adjust really. Everybody has a three year
business plan and they’ve given us one year or less to adapt.”

Meanwhile in Guelph, Emerald Ridge Farms’ Anna Meyers, president of the
Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association (SBOA), also addressed the lack of
insight the Liberal government appears to have on how far-reaching their
decision to end the Slots-At-Racetrack revenue sharing agreement is.

“There are elements of the business that the government didn’t think about or
understand,” Meyers was quoted as saying in the Guelph
Mercury
. “It’s the scariest thing most of us in the industry have ever
been through. We’ve poured everything into our farm and into our livestock. To
think that with one announcement that can all be jeopardized — it’s
horrifying.”

In Kitchener, Meyers’ husband Pat spoke of the losses their farm has already
seen since the announcement was made that the revenue sharing agreement would be
ending.

“So far, we’ve had 10 to 12 mares leave our farm because the owners of those
horses are moving them down to New York state because they’re afraid of the
future and what’s going to be here in Ontario. We’ve been hit hard already,” the
longtime veterinarian and breeder was quoted as saying in The
Record
. “We buy feed. We buy hay. The ripple effect throughout the
whole industry is unbelievable.”

Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s Mark Reusser elaborated on how the
agricultural industry as a whole will feel those ripple effects.

“A deadening of economic activity in rural Ontario…fewer people buying hay
and straw, fewer people providing feed, a downturn in the industries that
support the race horse industries,” he was quoted as saying at the rally in a
CTV Southwestern Ontario video report.

Horse racing is the second largest sub-sector of Ontario’s agricultural
economy. The industry received $345 million last year from the
Slots-At-Racetracks program, which sustains over 60,000 jobs, produces over $2
billion in expenditures and $261 million a year in taxes. Meanwhile, the Ontario
government’s share of revenues from the profitable program is over $1.1 billion,
used to help fund education and health care.

“This has been a partnership that has benefited everybody,” OHHA director
David Gibson was quoted as saying at the Peterbourough rally by the Peterborough
Examiner.

(Courtesy of Standardbred Canada)

Rallies To Target Liberal MPPS In Riding Offices, Friday, March 30th, Please Attend And Stand Up For Horse Racing

 

Liberal MPPs in Ontario are being targeted on Friday, March 30th in an extremely critical concentration of rallies orchestrated by the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA).

Set for the local constituency offices of many Liberal Members, these events represent our best chance to reinforce the devastating affect closing the Slots at Racetracks program will have on their particular communities.

It’s imperative to our cause that we turn out in force for these events on Friday, so we can influence these politicians before the vote on the Ontario Budget. They need to see the faces whose livelihoods they are negating, not only in the horse racing and breeding industry, but within the wide-ranging economic cycle that our business sustains.

If you’ve been wondering what more you as an individual can do, the ball is now in your court.

Just SHOW UP-with your friends and families-it’s the most important thing you can do right now for horse racing, and for the whole Ontario horse industry!

If you need more information, the Riding Office addresses and the Co-ordinators of the individual rallies are listed below:

Events beginning at 1pm:
Hon Christopher Bentley, London West, 11 Baseline Road East, London
Contact:  Tammy McNiven, 519-318-8882, tbf@xplornet.com

Hon Laurel C. Broten, Etobicoke–Lakeshore, 701 Evans Avenue, Etobicoke
Contact:  Julie Coulter, 416-675-3602, cthsont@idirect.com

Kim Craitor, Mount Carmel Plaza, 3930 Montrose Road, Niagara Falls
Contact:  Lorrie Scott, 800-295-3770, forterie@hbpa.on.ca

Hon Dwight Duncan, Windsor-Tecumseh, 2825 Lauzon Parkway, Windsor
Contact:  Brian Tropea, 519-257-0332, brian@ohha.ca

Jeff Leal, Peterborough, 236 King Street, Peterborough
Contact:  Dave Gibson, 705-930-4292, garneygibson@yahoo.com

Hon Dave Levac, Brant, 96 Nelson Street, Brantford
Contact:  Jim Wellwood, 905-648-0198,  jameswellwood@msn.com

Hon Ted McMeekin, Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, 299 Dundas Street East, Waterdown,
Contact:  Cathy Boughton, 905-536-6728, cathyboughton@cogeco.ca

Hon John Milloy, Kitchener Centre, 1770 King Street East, Kitchener
Contact:  Dr. Ted Clarke, 519-465-7884,  tclarke@grandriverraceway.com

Liz Sandals, Guelph, 173 Woolwich Street, Guelph
Contact:  Bill O’Donnell, 519-823-6669, billodonnell01@aol.com

Joe Dickson, Ajax Pickering, 50 Commercial Avenue, Ajax
Contact:  Bob Broadstock, 905-626-8487, bmbtech@xplornet.com

Event beginning at 2:30pm

Hon Deborah Matthews, London North Centre, 242 Piccadilly Street, London
Contact:  Ann Straatman, 519-319-8530, annseelster@quadro.net

 

 

 

Ontarians Favour Maintaining Exisiting Slots At Racetracks Program, Forum Poll shows

Nearly three-quarters of Ontarians say they approve of the ‘Slots at the Racetrack” program (74%), and two thirds approve of the specific terms of the deal OLG has with Ontario’s horse racing tracks (61%), according to a new survey conducted by Forum Research on behalf of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association.

The vast majority say it is important that the 60,000 jobs connected to Ontario’s racing and breeding industry stay in the province (84%), and close to one third say it is “extremely important” (31%).

Most feel that the 20% of slot revenues the tracks receive is the right percentage (43%), although many think it is too low (30%).

Three-quarters of Ontarians (77%) say it is important that the jobs and revenues created by ‘Slots at the Racetrack’ be maintained, and close to one quarter say it is “extremely important” (22%)

The majority do not approve of the provincial government building more casinos (58%) and a similar proportion disapprove of a casino being built in their town (57%).

One half approve of gaming tables at racetracks (50%), and the largest group thinks the best plan for OLG is to leave slots at the racetracks and refrain from building new resort casinos. Only a small minority opt for removing slots from racetracks, either to new casinos (8%) or to purpose built slot facilities (5%).

When asked where slots should ideally be located, two thirds say “at racetracks, where they are now” (62%).

“It is clear Ontarians understand the importance of Ontario’s horse racing and breeding association and that they want their government to act to protect this industry,” said Sue Leslie, President of OHRIA. “We hope the government will commit to honouring the existing contracts through 2015 and developing a sustainable way forward for the industry so that we can continue generating more than $1.1 billion dollars per year for healthcare.”

This poll was conducted by Forum Research  for OHRIA between March 17 and March 22, 2012, on a sample of 1006 randomly selected respondents. Interviews were conducted by telephone using an RDD sample. The margin of error for a sample this size is plus or minus 3%, 19 times out of 20.

Save Horse Racing Rally, Monday, March 26–All Urged By OFA To Attend

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has issued the following announcement about the Save Horse Racing Rally at Queen’s Park on Monday, March 26:

PLEASE READ!! We need YOUR help as NUMBERS SPEAK VOLUMES! A rally to Save Horse Racing (and subsequently other industries that will be affected by the removal of the “Slots at Racetracks Program”) has been organized to take place this coming Monday at Queen’s Park in Toronto (Monday, March 26/2012) at 11:00 am.

This is our last chance to sway the decisions being made by the minority Government which is being led by Premier Dalton McGuinty and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. 3 slot locations (Windsor, Fort Erie and Hiawatha Horsepark) of the 17 racetracks in Ontario have already been given the order to shut down causing several hundred people to lose their jobs. These figures will continue to increase if immediate action isn’t taken!

The MPPs are urging all involved to take part in a pre-rally gathering which begins at 10:30 am. We, the horsemen of Ontario, ask everyone affected to unite as one and to set aside any differences they have between organizations!! It affects us as a whole so we should fight together as such! For more information in regards to the removal of “Slots of Racetracks Program”.

Please contact me at jugheadluvr@hotmail.com or go to www.ohha.ca or www.ohria.com

For any changes in regards to the Save Horse Racing Rally, please go to https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/266334280115770/Please spread the word to any organizations within your realm that you feel would be impacted by the removal of the “Slot at Racetrack Program”.

Thank you, and hope to see you there!! Sincerely, Christine Arlidge

McGuinty Needs A History Lesson And Some Fresh Country Air, Says Former OFA President

The following Opinion Column by Roger George, former President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, appeared on NorthBayNipissing.com on March 22, 2012:

——————————————————————————————————————–

Not for the first time in my life, I am going to wade into a tale of old battles and forgotten history, with a profound sense that someone needs to sound the alarm bells at Queen’s Park for rural Ontario once again.

The issue is the gambling slots at racetracks in Ontario and a recommendation of the Drummond Report for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp (OLG) to remove them from selected tracks.

Nearly 20 years ago I was part of a farm and equine coalition to point out to Bob Rae’s NDP government that its proposed foray into the casino business was a potential disaster for the rural economy. The logic then was the Ontario horse industry was a major economic, farming and jobs catalyst. We argued that driving punters from the racetrack to a new generation of casinos would cause the demise of the smaller horse racing tracks and, by extension, there would be less race horses, less hay and feed markets for farmers and fewer rural equine related jobs.

Lobbying alongside the equine people was a welcome change of pace from the usual farm policy worries. We connected the dots for the politicians and demonstrated the linkages between horse racing, farming and the economy. It took five years of lobbying and negotiation, but in 1998 the horse racing groups won a compromise from the first Harris government to allow slots at the tracks which in turn put more money into horse racing purses and led to unprecedented growth across the many disciplines that make up the equine sector.

Today in 2012 I can toss out some ballpark figures like: $500 million spent annually with Ontario farmers and suppliers for hay and feed; about sixty thousand equine related jobs; economic spin-off from horses in Northeastern Ontario alone is $100 million plus; each year Ontario collects $261 million from the equine sector; and the OLG slots at racetracks return millions to the provincial coffers.

It was one of those rare win-win situations where the province got millions from gambling, horseracing prospered due to lucrative purses made possible by its 20 per cent share of slots revenues, local municipalities got a 5 per cent cut of the action and plowed it back into community infrastructure, and farmers and rural businesses continued to sell hay and services to the horsey set.

Now, based on a recommendation from the Drummond Report, the OLG proposes to remove slots (and income) from three tracks and relocate them in urban casinos. We can be fairly sure neither the economists nor the OLG lottery gurus have much historical perspective of past economic arguments. Worse, they have likely not considered the impact on the rural economy as gaming revenues move to urban centres.

In fairness the three racetracks tracks in question at Windsor, Sarnia and Fort Erie have seen major revenue declines due to lack of US visitors and a strong Canadian dollar, but the cross border gamblers will return when the economy and the dollar exchange resume more normal patterns.

The premise of sharing the revenue with the stakeholders in rural Ontario is as valid now as it was in 1998. So, before the McGuinty government, in its’ panic to plug the hole in the piggy bank, jettisons a proven model it would do well to look at facts that show the horse is as important to the rural economy in 2012 as it was a hundred years ago before the mass use of tractors on the farm.

Back in the day I took Treasurer Floyd Laughren down the backstretch at the old Greenwood Racetrack in Toronto and told him for every horse he saw there were two stable people, and most of them could not be retrained as rocket scientists if he killed their jobs. I even told Bob Rae if he wanted to be in the gambling business we could rent him a farm. Whatever it took to get their attention!

Today we need to get the Premier into a pair of boots and expose him to the fresh air of the countryside, which might help clear his fogged urban mind and remind him of the history behind a remarkable story of success. Better yet, in the spirit of the Past Premiers’ Club, perhaps Bob, Mike or Ernie could invite Premier Dalton for an evening at Toronto’s Woodbine track and explain why this revenue sharing was necessary, and why it works. If nothing else it would save our urban premier a much-feared trip to the boonies.

I don’t play the slots, and I don’t own a horse, and I don’t even farm anymore. But I do know that lessons of history should always be well heeded before the proverbial horse has left the barn, the stable door is closed, and our rural communities and farms are all the worse for it.

Column by Roger George, a retired farmer and former president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. He currently co-chairs the Economic Development Committee of the Municipality of Powassan.

 


Atlantic Post Calls Journal Says Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Actions Are “An Outright Attack On The Rural Economy”

Atlantic Post Calls Managing Editor Larry Resnitzky takes Premier Dalton McGuinty to task for “an outright attack on the rural economy”.

Read his excellent assessment of the Ontario  situation and how it will reverberate through the rest of Canadian harness racing by clicking here.

Letter From Sue Leslie and OHRIA

Sue Leslie, President of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA), is encouraging all industry participants to stand behind OHRIA as the official voice of the industry.

OHRIA’s considerable efforts to sway the Ontario government in its decision to abandon the Slots at Racetracks program continue to have impact. The current media blitz will be complemented by a direct mail program which will roll out very soon.

Read more about what OHRIA is doing on your behalf by clicking here.

Horse Racing In Ontario Contributes $4.5 Billion To the Economy, Equine Canada Study Finds

The Ontario horse racing industry is contributing $4.5 billion or 77 per cent of the total annual economic contributions from racing in Canada, according to a new study just released by Equine Canada and Strategic Equine. The Economics of Horse Racing in Canada, an in-depth report on the horse racing industry on a province-by-province basis, identifies the significant economic contributions realized through horse racing in Canada — the industry generates more than 47,000 full-time equivalent jobs and $5.7 billion annually to the national economy.

The racing sector represents a small percentage of the total number of horses in Canada, but a significantly higher percentage of the overall economic contribution that comes from horses in Canada. With 45,000 horses active in the racing sector (five per cent of the total Canadian herd), the horse racing sector provides 26 per cent of the total economic contribution, and a $5.7 billion annual economic impact. Racing in Ontario represents the largest provincial sector for the national racing industry, with more than 68 per cent of the total racing opportunities and 86 per cent of the total purses earned in 2010.

The Economics of Horse Racing In Canada is the first in a series of ‘state of the industry’ reports to be developed by Equine Canada from the 2010 Canadian Horse Industry Profile Study, released in 2011. The 2010 study provided the country with the broadest and the deepest analysis of the national equine industry since Equine Canada first began producing the reports in 1998.

“The demographic and economic information garnered in the 2010 survey provided a wealth of information that is pivotal to demonstrating the contribution of the Canadian horse industry to the country’s overall economic health,” states Mike Gallagher, President of Equine Canada. “Our goal with the national study and related State Of The Industry reports such as this, is to better inform decision-making and policy development as it affects our industry and our horses.”

“With a short, intense competition career for active race horses, the annual expenditure on products and services for race horses is significantly higher than for most other horses. Horse racing drives demand for specialist equine veterinarians, and equine health products and services that add to the health infrastructure for the horse industry as a whole,” states Vel Evans, author of the study.

“Through all our fifteen years of research for provincial, national and international horse industries, it has been apparent that where there’s a healthy horse racing industry, there’s a strong horse industry.”

“Horse racing in Ontario, and the thousands of men and women who work in this flourishing industry, play a very important role in this national success story,” adds Gallagher. “We strongly encourage the government of Ontario to work with the industry to ensure horse racing continues to grow and prosper. The benefits of this successful partnership are felt not only in Ontario but in every part of Canada, throughout our rural and farming communities, and among the tens of thousands of men and women who work with and care for our horses, or supply products and services to the horse racing industry.”

You can download the study free-of-charge from Equine Canada’s website .

 

Important and Urgent Message From OHRIA To Allow One Industry Voice To Speak To Government

 

Ontario is blessed with a diverse horse racing and breeding industry. When we work together we are greater than the sum of all of our parts. During the challenging times we face together as a result of the Provincial government’s plans for the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program, it is critical we are seen to be speaking with one voice.

Ontario’s Horse Racing Industry Association was founded in the late 1990s to serve as the industry’s voice to government in times of need for our members. We were heavily involved in winning the tax changes that were so necessary in the 1990s and played a significant role in developing the framework for what has become the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program.

Since the Government’s first announcement of their intentions to review the Slots at Racetrack Program, OHRIA has engaged a public relations firm and government relations firm to provide professional assistance in protecting our industry.

Over the last two weeks it has become clear when speaking to Ministers and Opposition MPPs they need to hear clearly who is speaking for the industry, because the lack of consistency in message is presenting challenges for them in working with any of us.

If we do not correct this issue, none of us will be able to get anywhere with the government or opposition parties.

To that end, I am writing to formally ask your organization to publicly throw its support behind OHRIA, and announce on your website or in a statement that OHRIA is the voice of Ontario’s Horse Racing and Breeding Industry in the OLG Slots at Racetracks Program discussions with government and opposition parties.

It is critical we stand together now, because it is our only hope of turning this around before any further damage is done.

Sue Leslie
OHRIA President and Chair

 

 

 

 

 

“Heartbeat of Ontario Horse Racing”

Standardbred Canada and the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) have released a poignant video which illustrates the powerful effect of the Ontario horse racing industry on the province of Ontario’s economy.

Iron Horse Photo produced “Heartbeat of Ontario Horse Racing,” a 2 ½ minute piece which has already received well over 6600 views on YouTube since its release late last week.

See and hear just a few of the individuals who rely on the Ontario Horse Racing industry for their livelihoods: