Horse racing industry supporter take protest to MPPs
Published Friday, March 30, 2012 6:13PM EDT
Supporters of Ontario's horse racing industry gathered outside the offices of MPPs across the province on Friday afternoon.
They are trying to rally support for the industry and draw attention to what they say will be a devastating impact if Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) slots are removed from racetracks.
Protests were held outside Liberal MPP John Milloy's office in Kitchener, as well as in London, Brantford, Guelph and other cities.
Those in attendance say their message is that the decision will reach far beyond horse racing and have an effect on the whole economy.
Driver Anthony MacDonald moved to Ontario 15 years ago to train and race horses, but now he's not sure how long the industry will last.
"If we lose that money, none of us can race full-time; none of us can do that here."
He was one of dozens who gathered in Kitchener to protest the province's decision to remove OLG slots, and the revenue that goes with them, from Ontario racetracks.
Protesters say the impact is already being felt by the industry, just weeks after the announcement was made March 12.
Mark Reusser with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture says what happens to horse racing will be felt across other agricultural industries.
"A deadening of economic activity in rural Ontario…fewer people buying hay and straw, fewer people providing feed, a downturn in the industries that support the race horse industries."
Horse breeder Pat Meyers has already felt the backlash of economic uncertainty in the industry.
"The mares that we're breeding now, we have to run the risk that people won't want to pay stud fees because there won't be an Ontario Sires Stakes program."
MacDonald says he'd like to see the provincial government sit down and talk to the Ontario horse racing industry and fix what's been done.
"These people came out here today because they are fighting for their lives just as much as I am."
Milloy did not return calls requesting comment.