An Open Letter to Premier Wynne Regarding Hiawatha Horse Park
Premier Kathleen Wynne
Room 281, Main Legislative Building
Toronto, Ontario M7A1A1
Dear Premier Wynne,
The imminent cancellation of the Slots at Racetracks Program and its successful revenue sharing agreement are of great concern to the hundreds of workers and their families in Sarnia-Lambton who earn a living thanks to the horse racing and breeding industry. As the new Minister of Agriculture and Food, I’m sure you now have a better understanding of the significant contribution that the horse racing and breeding industry makes in the communities of rural Ontario. As such, I note that your government has backtracked somewhat on your previous position of ending horse racing in the province and has recently announced operational agreements with six Ontario horse racing tracks.
Unfortunately, Hiawatha Horse Park, located in my riding of Sarnia-Lambton, was not one of those six tracks selected by your government. This slight has left the staff of Hiawatha without the ability to make plans for the quickly approaching season.
Hiawatha Horse Park, which has consistently been the best run private racetrack in the province, is awaiting approval for a horse-racing season this year. Delaying the announcement of racing dates affects not only jobs in my riding but also the more than 55,000 jobs of men and women across the province who work in the horse racing and breeding industry. Having already disrupted the 2012 breeding season by the cancellation of the government’s agreement to share slots revenue with the horse racing and breeding industry, you are now endangering what little is left of the industry.
As you know, the economic significance of preserving the horse racing industry in rural Ontario goes beyond the agricultural aspects of breeding, feeding, and training. Using the guidelines outlined by your very own Ministry of Tourism, gaming has consistently been identified as one of five key core attractions for Sarnia and Lambton County; this obviously includes the Hiawatha Horse Park and the Slots operation at Hiawatha Horse Park.
By ignoring this reality, your government will significantly impact not only the horse-racing and breeding industry in Sarnia-Lambton but also the tourism industry which contributes over $175 million per year to the local economy.
On behalf of my constituents who take great pride in being part of the horse racing and breeding industry, I urge you to complete without delay your announcements on purses and race days and to guarantee Hiawatha Horse Park a full slate of racing for the upcoming season.
Bob Bailey, MPP