Fort Erie track ‘life-support’ remark irks MPP
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.”