Toronto’s second public consultation casino meeting was far more civil compared to the first meeting earlier in the week, when opposition hijacked any progressive dialogue on the casino proposal. While the opinion amongst the majority of the public was still opposed to the casino, the forum provided a healthy debate for supporters and opponents to clearly and rationally express their opinions.
The first debate took place at Toronto City Hall earlier in the week, and was quickly taken over by anti-casino councilors and support groups that prevented an expression of any healthy dialogue in favour of the casino. However, the second debate was hosted at the North York Civic Centre and was a much healthier expression of democratic opinion and healthy debate. The meeting was run by City Manager Joe Pennachetti, who will submit to Toronto city council a report documenting opinions from the public prior to the council’s vote on the casino at the end of February.
Several questions were directed towards Pennachetti himself in an effort to clarify confusing hyperbole about the casino – specifically if the province could circumvent Toronto’s decision to reject the casino and build the structure anyway. Pennachetti answered that he believed both the province and the OLG would have to respect the decision made by Toronto city council, but he stressed that a definitive answer couldn’t be given without a completion of extensive legal analysis of provincial and municipal law.
The North York meeting included a significant number of representatives from the Woodbine racetrack, which remains a viable location considered for the casino – though it has received less coverage than some of the other proposed locations. Vice President of Woodbine Corporate Affairs Jane Holmes countered the opinion of several speakers who are against a casino anywhere in Toronto by pointing out that Woodbine is located outside the core of the city.
“A lot of people don’t really know we exist as an option, but it’s still Toronto. We want people to understand Woodbine is different, and a lot of people don’t have a problem because we already have gaming.”
Three more public consultation meetings remain before Pennachetti submits a report to Toronto city council. One way or the other, the casino debate should be completed by the end of February.