Racing Future is determined to inspire a new generation of fans to enjoy the sport of horse racing.
In recent months, there has been a lot of press regarding the introduction of large casinos into designated gaming zones across the province. Once the Slots at Racetracks Program ends in 2013, the Government intends to recoup the revenue lost from their partnership with the tracks with revenue generated through casinos.
At Racing Future we understand that there are times when belt tightening is a necessity. We also understand that the Government must act in the best interests of all Ontarians and look for opportunities to generate revenue that will benefit all of us. However, we are at a complete loss as to why the Government would put casinos ahead of Ontario farmers and horses.
Farmers and Horses First
There seems to be a disconnect or a lack of understanding of farmers and rural Ontario generally, and of Ontario horse farmers in particular. Most horsemen and women in this province are not wealthy members of a turf club. They are farmers: they live off the land; breeding, raising, and selling horses and other livestock; growing their own crops of grain and hay; and, racing their horses once or twice a week.
On larger farms, barn staff and farm hands work seven days a week maintaining the land, sowing and harvesting crops, and looking after the farm animals. Many farmers engage in more than one activity to support their farms -- from breeding and selling horses to cash cropping to horse racing. In the same way, many farm hands and barn staff also often combine their frequently seasonal farm labour with other part-time jobs -- waiting tables, customer service, construction -- to support themselves and their own families. These are the farmers who make up much of our province's rural population.
The Face of Rural Ontario
The horse industry, particularly the horse racing industry, is one of the few bright lights in our province's agricultural sector, which has been in a slow but study decline for a number of years. These farmers and their employees are the face of rural Ontario today: they work hard and passionately and do their part to contribute to the rural economy by paying taxes and by consuming local goods and services. Without them, agriculture would go into further decline in the province. Racing Future urges all Ontarians to do your part to support Ontario farmers by understanding who lives and works in rural Ontario and by placing Farmers and Horses 1st, Casinos 2nd.
Ontario's horse farmers understand that there's no gravy train and they're not looking for one. They are some of the most thrifty, hard working, frugal people you could ever hope to meet. They're not looking for a handout. What are looking for is for all of us to put them -- our farmers -- ahead of casinos. Yes, casinos will generate revenue and yes, we all need to understand that the province is looking for opportunities to reduce the deficit. We all understand that now is not the time for recriminations about how or even why the debt is at the level it is. Now, is the time to look very carefully at, and consider our, priorities. How does putting casinos ahead of farmers and horses in the province help anyone given the consequences to rural Ontario? Will building casinos save rural Ontario from further decline once the SARP program ends in March 2013? How will the government even hope to deal with the more than 50,000 full and part-time jobs lost once the horse racing industry collapses? The fact that we are asking these types of questions means that our priorities are all wrong: casinos should definitely not be at the top of the province's priority list.
Perception is not reality
It is easy to see horses and horse racing as the sport of kings where ladies in designer gowns and top-hatted gentlemen in morning coats greet the Queen in the winner's circle. In Ontario, however, this perception is not the reality for the majority of those involved in horse racing. The reality is most are farmers and farm hands who live off the land supplementing their farm and horse-related income with other revenue and forms of work.
At Racing Future we understand the many layers of complexity involved in putting farmers and horses first. This is not an easy thing nor are there quick fixes here. However, we also know that putting casinos at the top of the list will surely depress many rural areas in Ontario to the point of despair. This will mean an end to both our rural -- and our rich equine -- heritage.
We must not let that happen
Racing Future urges the Premier to set his priorities straight: direct Paul Godfrey and the OLG as well as the Horse Racing Transition Panel to deal with Farmers and Horses 1st, Casinos 2nd. Racing Future is also seeking public declarations of support from all delegates at the Liberal Leadership Convention (to be held January 2013) as well as from Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath.
Together, we can put Farmers and Horses 1st, Casinos 2nd and Ontario will be the better for it!
If You're travelling on the Subway in Toronto during December, look for our posters! Show your support for rural Ontario and send us your pics: we'll post them on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. After tweeting or posting your photo, please connect via email or use our contact form and leave your mailing address: We'll send you a Racing Future hat!