by Michael Jiggins, Executive Assistant to Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark – written April 28, 2014
“Residents deserve the assurance that the process is fair and above-board and that the government and OLG are truly considering the impact on existing host communities and on the residents of potential host locations.”
– Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark on March 28, 2013, the day an Ontario PC motion calling on the Auditor General to investigate OLG was tabled.
(QUEEN’S PARK) – Ontario ’s Liberal government stacked the deck against the future of the Thousand Islands Casino by endorsing a plan to move it to downtown Kingston.
That bombshell revelation was included in Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s scathing special report on Ontario Lottery and Gaming’s (OLG) ‘Modernization Plan’ released today.
“Even as the government was assuring me and local municipal officials from the Town of Gananoque and the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands that the process would be fair, they had already rigged the game to decide the outcome,” said Clark . “It’s outrageous the government planned to completely ignore the compelling evidence supporting an expanded Thousand Islands Casino at its current site.”
On Page 22 of the report, the Auditor General reveals OLG proposed to “Replace Thousand Islands casino (Leeds and Thousand Islands) with casino in downtown Kingston .” The timeline indicated in the proposal was Winter 2015.
Lysyk notes the focus of OLG’s plan was “making gaming facilities more accessible by locating them in more populated urban areas, and this became the main driver for determining where new casinos should be built.”
“And we now know based on the Auditor General’s investigation our Ontario PC Caucus initiated, that the Liberal cabinet approved these plans in February 2012 before they were released to the public,” said Clark.
The MPP cited the revelations in the Auditor General’s report in calling for an immediate halt to the so-called modernization plan.
“The report makes it clear the entire premise upon which this plan was built – that it would generate billions of new revenue for a spendthrift, indebted government – wasn’t realistic,” explained Clark . “When you add in the fact the fix was in for the location of new gaming sites, the Liberals have absolutely no credibility left to move forward.”
In her report, Lysyk described the government’s revenue projections as “overly optimistic” and was strongly critical of the lack of municipal consultation. It also makes clear there would have been a net loss of jobs in Ontario ’s gaming industry when the plan was fully implemented.
The Auditor General’s report also condemns the government’s cancellation of the Slots At Racetracks program, noting they proceeded despite knowing it would decimate Ontario ’s horseracing industry – which was seen as a model for North America.
“The thousands of jobs lost in the horseracing industry, including many here in Leeds-Grenville, and fewer jobs overall in Ontario ’s gaming industry are the sad legacy of yet another disastrous Liberal scheme,” said Clark . “Ontarians deserve a government with a real plan for gaming, not one willing to gamble with people’s future.”
Last year, Clark noted Ontario PCs released their vision for the future of gaming as part of their Paths to Prosperity: Respect for Rural Ontario white paper, which called for an end to the OLG modernization plan.
It stated: “We need to shelve the OLG’s empire building plan to open up 29 new casinos. If we decide to expand gaming options, then why not build off what is already working and successful in welcoming communities? This would provide the certainty necessary to make investments and create jobs in Ontario .”