OLG casino plans across Ontario could be dashed after all if the PC party forms the next government at Queen’s Park. Speaking at the Rideau Carlton Raceway in Ottawa – a site in strong consideration for the Ottawa casino – PC MPP Lisa MacLeod and two of her colleagues said a PC elected government would scrap the OLG casino plans in favour of saving the horseracing industry at racetracks across the province. MacLeod says the OLG strategy backed by the Liberals is pitting “region against region, neighbour against neighbour” and a PC government would put an end to the squabbling.
MacLeod’s comments have made it more likely that the OLG plan will be an important issue in the next Ontario election that most pundits predict will occur in the spring of 2013. Dalton McGuinty has announced his resignation as Premier with his Liberal party still in a minority government. This means if the PC and NDP parties jointly vote against the Liberal budget next spring, Ontario will be thrown into another election.
MacLeod says the OLG casinos are part of an “empire-building plan”, and that the cancellation of revenue sharing programs with Ontario racetracks like the Rideau Carlton Raceway has already put their futures in jeopardy. She highlighted that the current slots at racetrack program – where the OLG has hundreds of slots at racetracks across the province – supply Ontario with $1.2 billion in revenues each year. She also stressed that the scrapping of this program has put 60,000 jobs on the line including 500 at the Rideau Carlton Raceway.
The PC plan would give racetracks the option of buying slot machines to save their industry, and a PC government would negotiate a deal similar to the slots at racetrack program to provide “a positive return to taxpayers”. MacLeod also stressed that the casino proposals should be put to municipal referendums so residents have the opportunity to vote on whether they believe a casino belongs in their city.
Ottawa is one of the first communities moving forward in the casino process, while Toronto could be the first city to put the casino on a municipal ballot. If Rob Ford is removed from office in January, it is expected Toronto will go to the polls with the OLG a very important issue on the ballot.