Ted McMeekin is Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture. He is taking heat, and rightfully so, because he is completely going along with the OLG plan to modernize gaming in Ontario. Despite the fact that up to 60,000 horse racing related jobs, mostly in agriculture, will be affected, and many will be lost. It is questionable that the government will wind up with more revenue if the OLGs plans come to total fruition.
What is certain is that if everything happens that the OLG and the McGuinty Liberal government want to happen, there will be many jobs lost in OLG Racinos as new operator will come in and run a more efficient ship.
The new operators, foreign investors like MGM and Caesars will take much of the profit out of Ontario.
Some new casino jobs will be created in places in urban centres like Toronto but it will be pale in comparison to the devastation that will be created in rural communities, as many in the horse racing community will be out of work, from grooms to track front side workers.
Those that do the hiring like trainers and farmers, will also see their incomes drastically drop, assuming they stay afloat. Trainers will definitely have to cut costs and run smaller operations, horse owners will start disappearing as it will become very difficult to make enough purse money to stay in the game (most owners lose money regardless of the purses, but lose a lot less when slot money contributes to the purse structure).
Farmers will be selling less hay, oats and bedding, and there are countless other jobs that will be affected.
And then there is money that those who derive most of their income working at the track spend within the local communities.
From restaurants to mom and pop shops to car dealerships, everyone will hurt.
To his credit, which will probably lead to his future downfall, McMeekin has engaged many “Joe Blow’s” on Twitter. Here, in his own words, are his Tweets regarding the ending of the slots at racetracks program (I’ll add a little timeline and some of my own thoughts where applicable):
The Drummond Report came out on February 15th. Nowhere in it does it state to end the slots at tracks program, though there were definite leanings towards tweaking it. McMeekin is asked about his stance when it comes to cutbacks in the horse racing industry:
“the government will look at all recommendations of the Drummond report and make decisions on how to proceed.”
Even though the OLG announced on March 14th that they were ending the slots at tracks program March 31,2013 and that they were taking slots out of 3 tracks April 30th, there was quite a lot of time between another Tweet on the industry until he was asked if he would show up at the 2nd OHHA rally at Queen’s Park March 26th (his answer was pretty much a no, though I’m not quite sure he was there or not:
“thanks - already met with horsemen, trainers, vets, track owners, Ag leaders, OLG, MPP colleagues, the Finance Minister and others”
When asked to comment on the 60,000 jobs that will be affected on April 12th prior to the budget being voted for, he ignored the question:
“Moving forward will require sustainable new business models community by community. OLG will soon be talking with municipalities.”
On April 13th he was asked about the fact that the plan to end slots was abrupt and if he thought it was right not to phase it out over more time instead of turning the industry upside down. His answer shows he has no concept about the industry, the fact that horse racing is a 4 year cycle when it comes to breeding or buying a yearling. Also, how at that time could the industry know how to put a new model in place when they were in the dark about what the new deal would like:
“Want to predict the future? then create it! Clearly time to construct a new business model that works + moves industry forward.”
When confronted by the FACT that Liberal propaganda ads called the slots at tracks a Secret Deal between wealthy track owners and the PC government when it was first implemented. McMeekin shows complete lack of understand (ignorance) and gives an answer to a question not asked, however he contradicted the lies put out by his Party:
“Nothing secret about slots at racetrack past or present. OLG needs workable and constructive options for racing to move forward.”
On April 16th, after reading a story about how Hamilton would gladly host a full scale casino though they were worried about the impact regarding Flamboro Downs (everyone still in the dark, including McMeekin, that only those who have run a casino in the past will be eligible to run a casino (including racetrack casino) in the future:
“Want to lay groundwork for a new slots/horseracing business model? See Hamilton's motion to work with OLG and private sector”
Here is a series of Tweets. When asked about saving jobs and horses, McMeekin shows how in the dark he was on April 17th: Notice how he spells OHRIA wrong twice not once which would have been forgivable. To me, it shows he just doesn’t care:
“Key to ongoing horseracing industry is developing a new business model. OHIRA needs to work with OLG and host communities.”
”Slots at racetrack $ partnership will end March 31, 2013. Municipalities will work with OLG on any new business models.”
When asked about meeting with OHRIA:
“OHIRA and anyone else interested in developing a new horseracing/slot business model need to meet with OLG and municipality.”
“Industry has struggled and must be turned around. Sell as sport +entertainment. Work with municipality/OLG on new RFP model”
Totally out of touch with the fact that horse racing is a 4 year cycle:
“Call it whatever you want. Reality is that a new business plan needs to be develooped. Working with Hamilton to do exactly that.”
“You tell me. A viable busineess plan Involves telling your story, being innovative and finding a new model that works.”
“No one throwing away an industry. Like other businesses need a viable business plan. It's not up to gov to develop your plan.”
Someone mentions that horse racing generates over $1 billion in expenditures without slots:
“i like the way you're thinking. Time to get at it and not rely on government to ensure business viability.”
May work? May totally destroy the industry and its 60,000 jobs? Is this guy for real? How about the fact that the OLG new strategy is completely speculative and that much of that new revenue will fly out of the country to Vegas companies?:
“OLG saying new strategy fully rolled-out they will add $1 billion MORE than current revenue stream. Fewer viable tracks may work.”
“Old math vs new math. OLG projects their new approach will raise up to an additional $1 Billion. New business model coming.”
Here he is mocking another Twitter who asked that the government honour their old deal:
“Woulda, shoulda, coulda won't change anything. Slots/horse partnership as exists will terminate 03/13. Time for new busiiness plan”
April 19th. He seems to know a bit more. Congrats:
“simply put - OLG will develop in collaboration with municiipalities a series of venues - perhaps some tracks and other venues.”
Drummond never stated to end the program. Where is the review?, where is the job impact study?:
“Drummond called for a review and a new Business model. I spent some time talking with him about this and other things.”
When told the OLG keeps industry in the dark, and McMeekin is supposed to represent the horse racing industry. He accepts no responsibility:
“OLG is Ont Lottery and Gaming.Comes under perview of Ministry of Finance not Agriculture. Angry? Focus your comments to OLG.”
When asked about Hamilton and Flamboro April 20th:
“OHIRA is on it. They are seen as the "official voice" of the horseracing industry. That said I facilitated a Ham/OLG meeting.”
From May 1st and 2nd:
“SO largely privately operated now. Slots being redeveloped with willing-host municipalities and with new business models.”
“the decision to terminate the slots at racetrack program was taken by the OLG based on their land-based gaming strategy.”
Sounding like a pompous ass:
“Industry will survive with new business models. Can only predict future by creating it. Stop complaining/get to work”
When told he let rural Ontario down by voting for the budget, he accepted no responsibility:
“Decision made by the OLG not me. I believe horseracing will survive with new business model(s) and will work to that end.”
May 10th to present. He finally knows that there will only be rental agreements with the racetracks, so the deals will be between tracks and the new operators. He seems mixed up and clueless, oh and pompous and uncaring:
“so get on with developing new business models in concert with tracks/OLG and municipalities. Predict future by creating it.”
“Key is tracks/municipalities and horsemen working together to est. interest in new business model. Then discuss RFP with OLG.”
“I hear you. OHIRA/OLG the two key players on the horse side while municipalities/OLG will make RFP and venue decisions.”
Here he debates a PC MPP who supports the slots at track program. Again, he abstains himself of any responsibility but he does keep with the theme that he really doesn’t give a care what happens to the 60,000 people in the industry:
“Pointing fingers is easy and lazy. Use your skills to help OHIRA/OLG develop new effective business models”
“Try being honest rather than partisan. Decisions on horseracing were taken by OLG. OLG ?'s go to Minister of Finance”
My turn to confront him. I hate disingenuous behaviour. Again, he shows no knowledge that the industry is a 4 year cycle. It is kind of like telling a 64 year old that he won’t get his pension next year, but he “thinks” the industry can make a new plan by next year without much devastation:
Cangamble: RU being blatantly dishonest or just plain ignorant. Drummond Report never stated to end slots program.
McMeekin: @Cangamble Talked openly about need for land-based gaming strategy and rationalization of slots at tracks. The study led to end of program.
Cangamble: @TedMcMeekin Horse crap sir. There was no study based on the Drummond Report the gov did. I don't know of 1 Drum. rec to be implemented.
McMeekin: @Cangamble Gov. said all along Mr. Drummond would make recommend and the gov make decisions. Several Drummond recommends not implemented
McMeekin: @Cangamble OLG land-based study parallel to Mr. Drummonds work. The slots/track deal will end 3/31/13.Time to find alternative bus model."
Finally, he implies that the government (not the OLG) has been working on their plan to kill racing for two years. Consultations? With who?:
“Gov. is not one-dimentional. The study took two years. There was extensive consultation and then some tough decisions taken.”
I think any partial person can conclude that Ted McMeekin simply doesn't care what will happen to up to 60,000 people with jobs either directly related or partially related to the horse racing industry. It is hard not believe that McMeekin is nothing but Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan's bitch who was given a political favour (yeah that happens) to get his new position. It may sound harsh, but I believe its true.
After all, if you check his resume, he has little experience with the agriculture industry, and obviously doesn't even understand the horse racing industry, or the repercussions of cutting the slots program with tracks within a year. Both he and Dwight Duncan don't even know the exact number of people who will be impacted by this "OLG decision." That isn't responsible government, not even close.
He may appear to be like a pompous buffoon with his position and knowledge about the Ontario horse racing industry, but he still looks like a scholar compared to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan (my border collie does too, so I'm not saying much).
Both should do the right thing, and resign their positions yesterday. They make Ontario look like a farce. To call them embarrassments is to give them too much credit.
To check out McMeekin on Twitter (though he might close his account after I hit publish):
@TedMcMeekin Dwight Duncan: @DwightDuncan And finally, if you like to laugh, here is parody Twitter site that mocks Dwight Duncan(It might actually reflect what Duncan is really thinking, not really saying): @HonestDwight
I don't know about you, but I expect more from politicians than what I've seen from these elected officials.