It is grossly insulting to the people of Hamilton to suggest that the City should have to finance its share of what is essentially a provincial responsibility.
By Sam Merulla
Published February 05, 2013
The Province of Ontario does not have a mandate to amend the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) business plan. The Ontario Liberal Party did not seek a mandate in the previous Provincial Election, and both the NDP and Conservatives favour a referendum in our minority government.
Frankly, prior to an underhanded amendment this past summer, it was a legislated requirement to have a binding referendum prior to any city pursuing a casino, as we conducted in 1997 which showed a clear majority and mandate against a casino in Hamilton.
This too was not an election issue, and the Province - and by extension the OLG - does not have a mandate to amend the legislation. Also, not one member of Hamilton City Council ran on obtaining a mandate to pursue a casino.
Frankly, my mandate is to get back to basics by focusing on infrastructure, manufacturing jobs, poverty reduction and mitigating waste.
OLG's business plan at the conception of casinos in Ontario was based on targeting American tourists, based on the fact that states bordering Ontario did not offer casino gambling and. The OLG was focused on capitalizing on this fact through tourism and a weak Canadian dollar, which acted as a catalyst to this successful endeavour.
After American border cities were introduced to casinos, the OLG has seen a significant decrease in profits and a need to create a new business plan. Their new business plan of focusing on "where the people are" is an attack on cities such as Hamilton.
Unlike cities such as Ottawa and Toronto, Hamilton will never be a tourist mecca to the extent of those cities. Furthermore, all of our studies have clearly indicated that the vast majority of our tourism is based on family visits to our great city.
Therefore, OLG's attempt of targeting Ontarians, Hamiltonians, and particularly Hamiltonians in low social economic neighbourhoods, is predatory in nature, which is not to dissimilar to a "crack dealer"!
Hence, I proudly stand by my opposition to this pathetic process.
The official position of Council has been in place since April 2012 protecting, the status quo and the horserace industry. The problem is the $4.5 million in revenue we receive is part of the City's operating budget. The purpose of the pro casino argument is to maintain the revenue, thereby not impacting the general levy.
It is grossly insulting to the people of Hamilton to suggest that the City should have to finance its share of what is essentially a provincial responsibility in the face of the $120 million annual deficit - or $600 per household.
We need to upload the download, not amplify the regressive nature of this taxation crisis.
The casino deal sees the Province getting 50 percent of the gross revenue and the private operator receiving the rest, with a very small percentage actually going to the City of Hamilton. It is the epitome of privatizing the profits and socializing the costs.
The motion I have tabled since the summer of 2012, and which I will be lifting on the 6th of February, clearly supports the status quo protecting the Flamborough site and the horse race industry.
It demands a referendum in the event that the OLG and province choose not to support this endeavour.
Let's not confuse the issues. The problem was created by the Province and OLG and the solution must come from them, not the City of Hamilton taxpayer.
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