Fort Erie track ‘life-sup­port’ re­mark irks MPP

The Welland Tribune - - Local - ALLAN BENNER

Ni­a­gara Falls Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date Chuck McShane rubbed Fort Erie rep­re­sen­ta­tives the wrong way when he said the town’s race­track is on life-sup­port.

While in­tro­duc­ing party Leader Doug Ford dur­ing a cam­paign rally in Ni­a­gara Falls on Mon­day, McShane said the riding’s New Demo­crat MPP, Wayne Gates, “has jumped up and down, screamed and shouted, he’s waved his hands and made many prom­ises.”

“But guess what folks, we’ve re­ceived noth­ing in this riding — noth­ing,” he told a crowd of hun­dreds of party faith­ful.

McShane went on to say that Gates promised, “the Fort Erie race­track will come back to life.”

“The Fort Erie race­track is on life-sup­port right now, folks, and we’re pay­ing for it,” McShane added.

In re­sponse, Gates, as well as Fort Erie Race Track chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Jim Thib­ert and Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop is­sued state­ments in de­fence of the race­track’s re­cent progress, while de­scrib­ing McShane’s com­ments as “in­flam­ma­tory” and “inac­cu­rate.”

“We have fought tooth and nail along­side the com­mu­nity to save the track,” said Gates, who re­peat­edly raised the is­sue in the leg­is­la­ture. “When I took of­fice four years ago the track was slated for clo­sure and as a com­mu­nity we have stopped and re­versed that.

“The track now has a longterm fund­ing so­lu­tion in place and we’re on the path to un­do­ing the dam­age that was done there,” he said.

Gates said he is “not sur­prised that Doug Ford’s lo­cal can­di­date has no idea what the eco­nom­ics of the track are — he hasn’t been in the fight with us over the last four years.”

McShane, Gates added, is “will­ing to say vir­tu­ally any­thing, even if it’s not true and in­sults the work this com­mu­nity has done to get elected, that’s just shame­ful.”

Thib­ert said Fort Erie Live Rac­ing Con­sor­tium (FELRC) has worked with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment since 2010 on main­tain­ing the track, in­clud­ing work­ing with Gates and On­tario Trea­surer Charles Sousa dur­ing the past three years to build con­fi­dence in the in­dus­try.

“We have been suc­cess­ful at achiev­ing both a 20-year con­tract, ad­di­tional fund­ing to race 40 days and op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­creased rev­enues to help us get to full sus­tain­abil­ity,” Thib­ert said. “If (McShane) be­lieves in the track and our peo­ple, he should not use in­flam­ma­tory, inac­cu­rate and emo­tional state­ments for his own po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.”

Redekop pointed out sev­eral re­cent “mile­stones” achieved through the col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts of Gates, the town and FELRC to en­sure the fu­ture vi­a­bil­ity of the fa­cil­ity — in­clud­ing On­tario’s 19-year com­mit­ment to help all On­tario tracks re­main sus­tain­able, with up to $105 mil­lion in fund­ing for seven years be­gin­ning April 1, 2019, with two sixyear ex­ten­sions that can be au­to­mat­i­cally granted by On­tario Lot­tery and Gam­ing Corp.

“Any pub­lic­ity that sug­gests that the track is in trou­ble is patently inac­cu­rate and makes it more dif­fi­cult to at­tract horses and pa­trons. The truth is that the Fort Erie race­track is do­ing bet­ter now than it has in years,” Redekop said, adding the track is an­tic­i­pat­ing con­tin­ued in­creases this sea­son.

“To say that the Fort Erie race­track is in trou­ble is not only misguided but also hurt­ful to the progress we have worked so hard to achieve.”

Chuck McShane

Wayne Gates

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