South Stormont is lining up with municipalities in the United Counties and others across the province who are worried that thousands of race horses could be destroyed if Ontario's racing industry collapses next year.
Bryan McGillis, the mayor of South Stormont, told Seaway News in an interview he is furious over plans by the provincial government to redirect funds it had provided previously to the racing industry.
The Slots at Racetracks Program ended when the Ontario government announced its cancellation of the revenue-sharing pact at 17 provincial tracks earlier this year. The government indicated horse racing industry’s share of slot revenue, which was $345 million in 2011-2012, would be directed to other areas such as health care and education.
The move means thousands of race horses could be put down, as breeders and farmers may not be able to justify paying expenses related to an animal that will have nowhere to race.
"I'm really concerned with what is going to happen will all of the horses," said McGillis. "How can you do that to a healthy horse? That's what's going to happen and that's why people need to speak out."
A government panel assembled earlier this year to study the sport has forecast a cull of up to 13,000 horses next year should the industry collapse completely. It’s believed two-thirds of Ontario race tracks will close, so there will be fewer racing days and even less money in prize pots - making it more difficult for horse owners to stay in the industry, if it exists at all.
McGillis has penned a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty on the subject and South Stormont has supported resolutions from other municipalities in the province demanding action on this subject.
"I know first-hand what kind of impact this will have on people," said McGillis, who's late father Ken was a horse breeder and an active member of the industry.
He said the horse racing industry created some $1.3 billion in revenue each year and those in the industry spent nearly $2 billion - not to mention 60,000 that the industry created or maintained.
"This is going to have one heck of an impact in rural Ontario," said McGillis. "It's time for South Stormont to get on board here."
There is no timeline attached to McGuinty's potential for a response to McGillis' letter, but the mayor said he is prepared to wait as long as possible.