10/17/2012 2:23PM

Ontario premier's resignation should not affect Horse Racing Transition Panel report


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The sudden resignation of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty on Monday evening should have no direct impact on the upcoming final report from the horse racing transition panel.

The report, compiled by former Ontario cabinet ministers Elmer Buchanan, John Snobelen, and John Wilkinson was submitted to Ted McMeekin, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food, and rural affairs, on Monday, just more than two weeks past its original due date after the panel requested an extension.

“It will get presented, and either get approved or not approved by the government, regardless of the resignation of Mr. McGuinty,” said Sue Leslie, president and chair of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association.

The report will put forth recommendations on how Ontario’s racetracks can build and maintain a sustainable business model with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission scheduled to remove slot machines from their premises on March 31.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission already removed the slots from Windsor Raceway, which closed last month, and Fort Erie, which is scheduled to close Dec. 31. The government body also had established 29 new gaming zones in the province where existing or new gaming facilities would be permitted following municipal and other approvals.

Lisa McLeod, the Progressive Conservative member of provincial parliament for Nepean-Carleton in the Ottawa area, has been a strong supporter of the racing industry and opponent of the ruling Liberal Party’s decision to end the slots program.

On Aug. 30, she introduced a motion to have the auditor general review the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission’s gaming modernization plan. Also, Monte McNaughton intoduced a private member’s bill, C76, which would require municipalities to hold referendums before casinos could be built.

McGuinty has prorogued the legislature, suspending the operation of that provincial body until his successor is chosen.

“The fact that he prorogued the legislature is a terrible thing for us,” Leslie said. “Now Bill C76 and Lisa McLeod’s motion to the auditor general, all those things die now and there’s no opportunity for the opposition to work on issues – not just our issues, but any issues.”

Leslie is hoping that the panel’s report and the minister’s response will be made public by the end of the month.

“I don’t think we’ll have a real long wait, because they know the industry is very eagerly awaiting the government decision on what’s going to happen to our future,” Leslie said.

* A Friday article on the resignation of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty misidentified the person who introduced Ontario Legislative Bill C76. The bill was introduced by Monte McNaughton, not Lisa McLeod. The article also misstated one of the repercussions of Bill C76. It would require municipalities to hold referendums before casinos could be built, not remove slots from racetracks.