Essex MPP Taras Natyshak (NDP) attends a news conference at Unconquered Sun in Tecumseh on June 30, 2016. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Natyshak Calls Out Liberals On Horse Racing Privatization

A local member of provincial parliament is calling attention to the Liberal government’s plan to privatize horse racing.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak stood in the legislative chamber at Queen’s Park Thursday and asked about the Wynne government’s efforts to get the Ontario Horse and Harness Association (OHHA) to sign on with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) and the Woodbine Entertainment Group. Natyshak says this is a trend that’s been in place since 2012, when the government, under Dalton McGuinty, removed the Slots at Racetracks program in 2012.

“We have seen the destruction of a once vibrant horse racing and breeding industry, that supplied 65,000 good rural jobs in Ontario,” said Natyshak.

Natyshak said the majority Liberals failed to consult the shareholders of the province’s smaller racetracks, and are pressuring the OHHA to sign off on the agreement by May 1. He said this is taking place despite a warning from their former horse racing adviser to pump the brakes on the plan.

“He said ‘Beware of Woodbine’s dominant position. In the proposed structures of administration, not only are they the player, they are the scorekeeper and the referee,'” said Natyshak.

Ontario Minister of Finance Charles Sousa stood up in response. He said the 19-year, $105-million contract the Liberal government is working on ensures that the tracks will continue to have funding. Sousa also said the deal would create the Ontario Racing Board, which will oversee the funding of track improvements and consist of representatives from all forms of racing in the province.