March 18, 2013

With two weeks to go before the end of the SARP (Slots-at-Racetracks Program) the Ontario Harness Horse Association has some sound advice for new Premier Kathleen Wynne.

“The current piecemeal strategy, as applied by the Liberal Party, is devastating” says association President Ken Hardy. “Rural Ontario and the thousands of rural Ontarians who rely on this industry deserve better.”

While Wynne, on the advice of her political transition committee, has offered a scaled- down model ignoring rural Ontario, Hardy is making a last-ditch effort to prevent the total destruction of an industry that pumps billions of dollars into the economy and provides quality long-term jobs to thousands.

Hardy notes: “This is a government that, according to experts, threw away close to a billion dollars on the power plant election scandal.  The good people of rural Ontario should not have to pay for that boondoggle.  The folks I represent are hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people.  We never ask for a handout, but we expect fairness.  In our world a handshake is a covenant. We had more than that. We had a signed deal.”

Last year, the McGuinty government and former Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan, suddenly signalled an end to the successful SARP throwing a multi-billion dollar industry into chaos.

Ken Hardy observes: “Rural Ontario will never forget that the Liberals bought votes in the last election with the money they are stealing from us. We will never forgive them.”

Recently both opposition parties have indicated their support for the horse-racing industry.  The Ontario Progressive Conservative party released a white paper, Paths to Prosperity: Respect for Rural Ontario, which includes this recommendation: “Horse racing must be a key component of Ontario’s gaming strategy.  The government should cancel the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation plan to abandon racetrack slots and spend money on new casinos.  Instead, we will build partnerships with the horse racing industry allowing it to thrive.”

The New Democratic Party recently announced that they would be tabling a motion calling for a hiatus to the current Liberal plan that discontinues the longstanding partnership forged between government and the horse-racing industry.  The motion would require the government to maintain the Slots-at-Racetracks Program until a viable plan for the future of Ontario horseracing can be implemented.

“The NDP plan makes sense” states Hardy, “It gives us time to get our house in order, allows us to make the changes necessary for a viable industry and provides some certainty regarding the 2013 and 2014 racing seasons.  I’m asking the Premier to bet on rural Ontario.  You speak of respect.  Respect us. We trusted you.”

March 31 will see the end of the SARP partnership, closing numerous rural tracks and throwing thousands out of work.

For further information contact:
Brian Tropea, General Manager
905-854-6442 or 1-866-774-6442 ext. 222


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