Ajax DownsPublished on May 25, 2018
There are many serious questions that demand answers regarding the Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government decision to open a casino in Pickering in 2019 and close the Ajax Downs. At this point, three things are clear.
- The Liberal government's decision will cost the town of Ajax close to $8m annually. So either property taxes will rise or existing services will be cut.
- Closing Ajax Downs will end Quarter Horse Racing in Canada. That will cost 1,700 people in Durham Region their jobs.
- The impact on traffic of the Pickering casino in the already busy Church and Bayly area will see a dramatic increase starting next year. Major transportation infrastructure will need to be built, including rebuilding the Church St. 401 ramp, causing significant disruption.
There is also the matter of how the Town of Ajax and its citizens have been treated by Kathleen Wynne and our MPP Joe Dickson. On April 16, 2015, Joe Dickson signed a letter supporting Durham Live along with his Liberal colleague Tracy MacCharles. As a responsible elected representative, Joe Dickson must have known that would mean the end of Ajax Downs, the end of Quarter Horse Racing and very serious traffic issues in Ajax.
The Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa, confirmed in a letter last week that the last meeting with Mayor Parish about Ajax Downs was over three years ago. The Town and its citizens first learned about the loss off Ajax Downs through a leaked news story, then through a press release from a casino company and finally in a Facebook post from our MPP that among other things, congratulated the City of Pickering. All sixty days before an important provincial election. It is no wonder that Mayor Parish, myself and many others are questioning what exactly is going on.
Kathleen Wynne and Joe Dickson have refused to answer these questions. If I elected as your MPP in Ajax as part of a new Progressive Conservative Government, I will get you those answers. The people of Ajax and Ontario deserve to know the truth.
New Proposal from the Quarter Horse Racing Owners to Support the Industry
However, just knowing what happened, how and when, won’t save Ajax Downs or Quarter Horse Racing. Recently, the Quarter Horse Racing Owners of Ontario called on Kathleen Wynne and Joe Dickson to consider three steps to support the Quarter Horse Racing industry in Ontario:
- Treat quarter horse racing the same as thoroughbred and standardbred racing by giving it a home track, Ajax Downs.
- Within the gaming footprint already approved by OLG for the GTA consider leaving the slots at Ajax Downs even if a Pickering casino is built.
- To provide a statement of support for quarter horse racing.
Kathleen Wynne and Joe Dickson have rejected this proposal to save Ajax Downs without explaining why. Doug Ford and I believe this proposal deserves serious consideration. It is thoughtful, works within the already approved OLG gaming rules of four sites in the GTA and makes commercial sense for all of the parties involved including the Town of Ajax. Kathleen Wynne and Joe Dickson can provide no reason why Ajax Downs has to close. There are lots of reasons it should stay open
So in addition to getting you answers, if I am elected as the Progressive Conservative MPP for Ajax, you can count on two things:
- I will work tirelessly as your MPP to support Quarter Horse racing and prevent higher property taxes or service cuts in Ajax. I will fight for any sensible idea, like the proposal by Bob and the Quarter Horse Owners, that keeps the slots at Ajax Downs.
- A government that I'm a part of, lead by Doug Ford will seek solutions that are transparent and work for everyone, and not pit neighbour against neighbour, Ajax against Pickering, when it comes to casino gaming in Durham Region.
There are still important questions that must be answered about the serious traffic issues in Ajax caused by the Pickering casino. The proposal from the Quarter Horse Racing Owners of Ontario is a constructive way forward.
Background – Ajax Downs
The current plans for gaming in the GTA allow for up to four sites. Currently, there are three: Woodbine, Ajax Downs and Great Blue Heron Casino. The government refuses to offer any explanation of why adding a forth site at the proposed Durham Live complex requires removing the slots from Ajax Downs.
The government also refuses to explain why it has failed to protect the quarter horse racing industry when its own expert panel on horse racing recommended in 2013 that the province should maintain the current 30-day race calendar at Ajax Downs.
This Liberal government has failed to protect the quarter horse industry but in 2015 signed agreements with Woodbine and Mohawk raceway to ensure the long-term continued viability of thoroughbred and standardbred racing in Ontario.
Ajax Downs does not require a full redevelopment to continue being the home to quarter horse racing. It would be sufficient to maintain the status quo with the current number of slot machines.
Update: An Ontario PC Government will immediately begin work to bring back the Slots at Racetracks Program
June 1: Today, Rod Phillips announced that an Ontario PC government will immediately begin work to bring back the Slots-at-Racetracks Program (SARP).
“An Ontario PC government is going to work to bring this program back and help quarter horse racing thrive and grow in Durham Region. I have been working with Bob Broadstock and the quarter horse people for months, to find practical, achievable solutions to save the industry here in Durham.
"Quarter horse racing is responsible for 1700 jobs in Durham Region, and the revenue from the slots has helped keep property taxes lower. Without the slots, the Town of Ajax stands to lose $8 million in revenue yearly.
“In 2012, the minority Liberal Government, including Dalton McGuinty, Kathleen Wynne and Joe Dickson, passed their budget through the Legislature - which included the decision to kill SARP. Rather than voting against the budget, and stopping the gutting of the horse racing industry, the NDP, led by Andrea Horwath, abstained and propped up the government. In 2015, MPP Joe Dickson, signed a letter supporting the Durham Live proposal.
“The Ontario PCs will launch a working group to consult with the horse racing community and gaming proponents to bring slots back to racetracks as quickly possible.
“Only the Ontario PCs are committed to bringing this important program back. The NDP are waffling and refusing to commit.”