After months of working with the OMAFRA panel to provide the facts and statistics of Ontario’s horseracing industry, the panel’s final report has been presented to Minister McMeekin and OHRIA is hopeful that government can be convinced of our industry’s economic worth to the Province.
Although numerous attempts were made to discuss a plan to save the existing Slots at Racetracks Program it became clear that government could not be convinced. Any attempt at discussing SARP was met with negativity and only served as a roadblock to any meaningful advancement in negotiations. The only hope of saving our industry was to demonstrate a willingness to change by formulating a new plan for sustaining our industry.
In July, with the guidance of Stanley Sadinsky, OHRIA put forward such a plan to the OMAFRA panel who was assigned to formulate a plan for the $50 million allocated for transition. OHRIA acknowledged the criticism from the industry when the plan did not include SARP, but that program simply was no longer an option with government. However the OHRIA plan did remain true to the fact that our industry provides value for money in Ontario, is a major contributor to government financing, and is an industry that is worth partnering with.
As well as working with the OMAFRA panel, OHRIA’s Board has spent countless hours in meetings with industry participants, local council members, advisors, Mayors and Provincial MPPs. OHRIA has engaged both opposition parties while maintaining the fragile negotiations with our current government.
OHRIA has continued to field countless media interviews in an attempt to make the general public aware of the importance of our industry and impacts the government’s actions will have on all Ontarians.
As we await the Government’s response to the OMAFRA panel’s final recommendations we need to thank Minister McMeekin, who quietly worked hard behind the scenes with OHRIA to get the OMAFRA panel in place.
It is important to acknowledge the efforts of Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen and John Wilkinson. They have taken the time to understand the true economics of our industry and have shown that they care about our industry as well as the fate of our horses.
OHRIA believes in our industry and knows that we are worthy contributors to the Province. Our hearts ache when we hear of the impact that the decisions of government have already had on the families and livelihoods of those working in our industry.
OHRIA hopes that the OMAFRA panel’s vision of the future is one that both our industry and our government can work with and support. OHRIA anticipates a timely response from government and will share information with the industry as it comes available.
Sue Leslie, OHRIA President and Chair