Ted Arnott, MPP
Wellington – Halton Hills
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 22, 2012
MPP Arnott: Horse racing a pillar of rural Ontario economy
(Queen’s Park) – On March 21, Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott rose in the Ontario
Legislature in support of the Ontario horse racing industry.
“I would guess that hundreds – perhaps even thousands – of my constituents are employed in the
industry in one way or another, from the farmer to the horse people to the breeder to the
veterinarian,” Mr. Arnott told the Legislature. “It’s an important component, even a pillar, of the
economy of rural Ontario.”
However, earlier this month, the Government indicated that it intends to end the Slots-at-Racetracks
program, effective March 31, 2013. The program, which provides the industry with $345 million a
year, is a revenue sharing agreement between the Government and the Horse Racing industry
which paved the way for the installation of slot machines at racetracks.
Mr. Arnott argued that this constitutes a direct attack on the industry: “While I firmly believe that the
Government of Ontario needs to get its spending under control, I do not believe that this should
include measures which would kill the horse racing industry.”
According to published reports, the Slots-at-Racetracks program allocates 10% of slot revenue to
the host race tracks, 10% to the local horsemen, and 5% to the host municipalities.
However, the Government appears to have decided to end the program with little thought or regard
for the impact on rural Ontario, Mr. Arnott noted.
“Do they have any idea what the economic impact will be across the province? Where is the impact
study? Has the Minister of Finance even done one?” he asked.
Ultimately, argued Mr. Arnott afterwards, this decision represents an attempt by the Government to
pit rural Ontario against urban Ontario. “The Premier wants to frame this issue in a divisive way,
pitting urban Ontario against rural Ontario. This is unfortunate and it is ill-befitting for a Premier who
has an obligation to lead and govern with regard for the interests of the whole Province.”
(Attached: Hansard record of Ted Arnott’s speech in the Ontario Legislature, March 21, 2012.)
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Ontario Hansard – March 21, 2012
SUPPLY ACT, 2012
Mr. Ted Arnott: I’m pleased to have the opportunity this afternoon to speak to the supply motion on
behalf of the people of Wellington-Halton Hills, whom I’m so honoured and privileged to represent.
Let’s talk about health care first, as it’s the most important service the provincial government delivers and
it tends to be a top-of-mind concern, not only for my constituents but across the province. The hub of the
wheel of health care in small-town Ontario is the local hospital. In Wellington-Halton Hills we are
fortunate to have two fine hospitals: in Centre Wellington the Groves Memorial Community Hospital, and
in Halton Hills the Georgetown Hospital.
In the last provincial Parliament, I spent a considerable amount of time advocating for a new Groves
Memorial Community Hospital and urging the government to financially support the planned renovations
to the Georgetown Hospital. I drew upon my 21 years of experience as a member of provincial Parliament
to push the government to support these projects in every way that I could. But as I’ve said many times,
what’s said in the Legislature in support of a hospital project matters little if the project doesn’t make
sense; and what’s said in the Legislature matters little if the project doesn’t have strong community
Both the new Groves Hospital and the Georgetown Hospital projects made good sense and had the
requisite community support that the government could not ignore. I believe it is now my role to hold the
government to the commitments it has made to my constituents on the Groves and Georgetown hospitals.
I put the government on notice: I will not be silent if there is any indication whatsoever that the promises
the minister made to our communities are in any way broken. We await next week’s budget.
In the meantime, we read in today’s Globe and Mail some very troubling news. Anonymous sources have
apparently told Adam Radwanski that hospital projects are “under the axe.” Now, I’ve never promised my
constituents a new hospital-never once. What I have promised repeatedly is my best efforts in support of
our hospital projects. I haven’t promised an outcome, but I’ve promised my best efforts to get us the
outcome our communities need and deserve. I am here to say, on behalf of the people of Wellington-
Halton Hills, that we will accept nothing less than what the government promised us before the election. I
will hold this government to account for the promises it made to my constituents. If they lied to my
constituents, I will not remain silent.
While we are talking about infrastructure, let’s talk about the GTA West Corridor study. As members will
recall, I raised my objections to alternative 4-3 in the Legislature many times and in many ways before
Christmas. I continue to raise the concerns of my constituents. The council of the town of Halton Hills,
the council of the region of Halton as well as an extremely well-organized local community group have
come together to say that alternative 4-3 would damage our local environment and some of our treasured
heritage and historical sites; pave over good, quality farmland; divide our community in half; and reduce
our property values. Together, we have recommended a sensible, cost-effective alternative, backed up by
a credible engineering consultant. If the ministry wants to ease traffic congestion through the GTA west
area, they should seriously look at widening the 401. Surely in these challenging economic times, this
would be a more cost-effective solution than building a brand new highway along alternative 4-3. They
could use the money that they had saved and put the Morriston bypass on the ministry’s five-year plan. As you’ll recall, Mr. Speaker, I’ve raised this project need with the government many times as well.
Yesterday, I discussed it with the Minister of Transportation, urging him to meet with representatives
from the township of Puslinch. I reminded him that this project would have a significant regional benefit
for all of southern Ontario as it would ease the flow of traffic from Niagara region and the Hamilton area
through to the 401. I was pleased with the minister’s interest and favourable response, and I hope that his
office will soon set up a meeting.
The third matter that I am compelled to bring to the attention of the House is the economic importance of
the equine industry in Wellington-Halton Hills. On March 12, the McGuinty government announced that
it had directed the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. to implement a number of proposals, including
“stopping annual payments to the horse racing industry by ending the slots-at-racetracks program on
March 31, 2013.”
The equine industry has a significant presence in Wellington-Halton Hills. In fact, I would guess that
many hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of my constituents are employed in the industry in one way or
another, from the farmer to the horse people to the breeder to the veterinarian. It’s an important
component, even a pillar, of the economy of rural Ontario. While I firmly believe that the government of
Ontario needs to get its spending under control, I do not believe that this should include measures which
would kill the horse racing industry. I view the current funding arrangement not as a subsidy but as an
agreement between the industry and the government which allowed for the installation of slot machines at
racetracks, a revenue-sharing agreement which has been mutually beneficial for the horse racing industry
as well as for the government.
On February 22, I was at the rally on the front lawn of the Legislature to show my support for the horse
racing industry. I want to see Ontario’s horse racing industry remain strong and vibrant for years to come.
The Premier wants to frame this issue in a divisive way, pitting urban against rural Ontario. The Premier
says, “If it’s a choice between home care or horse racing, I choose home care.” What utter nonsense. What
about the billions wasted since he came to office in 2003? What about eHealth, the hundreds of millions
of dollars thrown out the window? What about the annual Auditor General’s reports listing page after page
of extravagance, waste and inefficiency? What about Ornge, the air ambulance scandal? What about the
growing sunshine list that comes out this Friday? What about the Ontario cricket club and the Liberal
slush fund that was handed out before the 2007 election? What about the hundreds of millions of dollars
that the government will have to pay in penalties for cancelling the gas-fired electricity plants in Oakville
and Mississauga to prop up Liberal incumbents who were likely facing defeat?
Do they have any idea what the economic impact will be across the province? Where is the impact study?
Has the Minister of Finance even done one? Why won’t he table it in this House? What about the impact
on the host municipalities? Does this not represent new downloading? Why doesn’t he admit that the
gaming market in Ontario is already saturated and he needs to close three slots facilities immediately to
make way for the planned mega casinos that he intends to announce soon? Why doesn’t he tell the people
of Ontario that his vision of a 21st-century economy in Ontario is drawing desperate people to a mega
casino and fooling them into emptying their pockets to satisfy a spending habit that he just can’t break?
Mr. Speaker, the people of Wellington-Halton Hills believe in the promise of the future. They believe that
with the right leadership, the right policies rooted in the right principles, Ontario’s best days are yet to
come. As their representative, I believe in the promise of the future as well, and it is increasingly clear to
all of us on this side of the House that the promise of the future begins with the defeat of the McGuinty