The third of Toronto’s public consultation meetings on the proposed OLG casino featured speeches from Rob Ford and his brother Doug Ford vouching for the casino, while also being attended by a protestor dressed as Darth Vader. The third meeting was held at the Etobicoke Olympium – in the riding held by Doug Ford – in a civil and informative format similar to the North York Civic Centre meeting and unlike the disruptive gathering at Toronto City Hall.
The event was attended by over 200 people, many of whom spoke one-on-one with the Ford brothers regarding their concerns about a casino in the city. The focus of this meeting was to address the potential impacts on socio-economic and mental health issues within the community, as well as debating the various locations a casino could be established. These locations include the downtown region – highly supported by the Ford brothers – along with Exhibition Place, the Portlands, and the Woodbine Racetrack.
Rob Ford touted the perceived economic benefits a casino could provide for the city, but was challenged by an employee of Woodbine Racetrack who argued that a casino would take jobs away from the city – particularly for people who work at Woodbine.
“There’s more than enough to go around,” was Rob Ford’s response.
However, Woodbine’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs Jane Holmes supported Ford’s response by suggesting there could be more than one casino in the GTA. Holmes has pushed for a casino investment at Woodbine or an expansion of the current service to include table games with the already established slot machines.
“There’s a lot of discussion about the downtown and we want to get the focus out that the locations aren’t mutually exclusive.”
Unfortunately, not all attendees were able to express their opinions. Protestor Dennis Hassell, a 54 year old script writer who lives in the Etobicoke area, arrived at the meeting dressed as Darth Vader – but was quickly asked by organizers to leave the meeting. Hassell says his outfit was a visual representation of his feelings towards a casino that he believes other residents would agree with.
“It’s like the Death Star. It creates jobs, it creates money, but at what cost?”
The fourth meeting is scheduled for January 16 at the Scarborough Civic Centre, and will conclude with the fifth meeting on January 19 at the Bluma Appel Salon Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Street.