Adam Vaughan, one of Toronto’s city councilors most opposed to the OLG casino, is asking for the casino referendum to be placed on the ballot of a possible mayoral by-election if Rob Ford is removed from office in January. The city sub-committee looking into the casino has already decided to poll public opinion, and Vaughan says if Torontonians do end up going to the polls it would be the best opportunity for feedback on the casino. The OLG has repeatedly stated that a casino will not be forced upon any community that rejects the proposal, and council is expected to submit its vote in February or early March of 2013.
Vaughan has consistently expressed his opposition to a casino in downtown Toronto, believing that a casino in the heart of the community will increase levels of problem gambling and criminal activity. He also has been a staunch defender Toronto’s Medical Health Officer Dr. David McKeown, who submitted a report to the city’s board of health last month that outlined suggestions to limit the perceived risks of problem gambling. These suggestions include the withdrawal of alcohol and ATM machines from the casino floor, and imposing a daily maximum loss limit that casino operators would be required to enforce. Vaughan says if a casino does receive city council approval, these recommendations should be mandated into the agreement with the OLG and the selected casino operator.
Given the March, 2013 deadline for a casino vote, putting the question on an electoral ballot was unlikely to occur but the political landscape could change by January. Rob Ford was found guilty of breaching conflict of interest rules and was ordered removed from office no later than December 10, but his lawyers have successfully won an appeal that extends his status as mayor until mid-January. Should the conviction be upheld, Ford will be forced to step down and councilors are hinting that a by-election will be called.
Vaughan’s ballot proposal has received support from fellow councilors including the Chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee Michael Thompson. Thompson says Vaughan’s idea has merit, and it would be an excellent opportunity for Torontonians to express their views on what a casino in the city would mean for the community.
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