Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario to Provide Up to $400 Million for Horse Racing Industry: Wynne

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario to Provide Up to $400 Million for Horse Racing Industry: Wynne

Article excerpt

Wynne promises up to $400M for horse racing

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TORONTO - Ontario's governing Liberals will spend up to $400 million over five years to help shore up the province's struggling horse-racing industry, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday.

It's an "investment in the future," she said after making the announcement at the Grand River Raceway in Elora.

"I believe that this industry has the capacity to be and is dynamic and exciting, and it's one that can deliver the products that today's customers want and that provide economic benefits to the communities that house Ontario's racetracks," Wynne said.

"I believe that this plan will make that happen."

The five-year plan was devised by a three-member panel appointed by the Liberals after they cancelled the slots-at-racetracks program, which brought in about $345 million a year for racetracks.

It released a report Friday that recommended the government inject up to $80 million a year in the sector starting next April, mainly to help cover purses and the costs of live racing.

It also called for a standard-bred racing alliance to operate a "world class racing circuit" with eight tracks -- Hanover, Clinton, Grand River, Western Fair, Flamboro, Georgian, Mohawk and Woodbine.

It will reduce industry costs and enhance revenues by concentrating all resident-based thoroughbred live racing at Woodbine, the report said.

The panel doesn't support a full race calendar at Fort Erie's track, based on its business plan and quantity and calibre of racing. But it endorses the current 30-day calendar at Ajax Downs.

Sue Leslie, president of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association, said while there are many positives to come out of the report, work remains to be done on standardbred grassroots racing and thoroughbred racing at Fort Erie Race Track.

"There are still many aspects of the report which need further dialogue and clarification especially in relation to grassroots racing, the survival of racing at Fort Erie Race Track and securing the necessary investment to ensure the breeding industry survives its severe decline," Leslie said in a release.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said he was "deeply saddened" by the panel's position on his hometown's racetrack.

"This is probably the death knell for the Fort Erie Race Track, a town I grew up in," he said in Toronto.

The minority Liberals, propped up by the New Democrats, are probably going to shutter the doors on a 125-year-old institution "and toss all the people out of work," Hudak said.

Conservative critic Jim Wilson, who represents Simcoe-Grey, said the damage has already been done in rural Ontario.

"Along the highways and back roads, you see horse equipment, horse trailers, buggies -- everything up for sale in the ditches. A lot of the farms have gone bankrupt," he said.

"So thousands of people have been thrown out, and the fact of the matter is, it's criminal what they did. …

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