QUEEN’S PARK – When asked again today about the horse racing industry, Minister of Rural Affairs Jeff Leal continued to tow the Liberal government line and offer nothing to avoid impending job losses.
PC MPP Jeff Yurek cited impending job losses at Ontario’s tracks to ask the Minister why he has abandoned the industry. Western Fair Raceway, which is one of only 6 tracks to secure transitional funding and has signed commercial leases to maintain its slot facilities, is better off than most tracks. However, they still project at least 20 lost jobs due to the discontinuation of the Slots at Racetrack Program.
“The Minister seems to be telling us that the best we can do is only lose 20 jobs,” said Yurek. “This is surprising considering that just last August he cited the thousands of horse-racing related jobs as a reason to continue the government’s investment in the industry.”
The Slots at Racetrack Program will be discontinued at the end of March. While Western Fair is the most recent track to concede job losses in advance of the March deadline, it is not alone. Kawartha Downs will lose 800 jobs and Woodbine will shed another 100.
“The job losses continue mount and the current Minister of Rural Affairs is going around making deals behind a wall of secrecy. For a Minister that represents a riding heavily involved in the horse racing industry, it is a shame to see Mr. Leal doing so little to help. Instead, he and his government have committed to building a casino empire that nobody wants.
“I stand with the PC Caucus in our support of the horse racing industry. We should be pursuing opportunities that strengthen our horse racing industry. We’ve stated that we would allow race tracks to purchase licences to operate slots. This will allow tracks to continue their operation of slots and build on Ontario’s rich horse racing legacy.”
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