Lest anyone missed one of the burrs under the saddle of Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, the city's long-standing political leader made sure a crowded house at the Community Leadership Breakfast got the point: OLG's upcoming closure of its Slots operation at the Hiawatha Horse Park is just plain wrong.
Bradley responded to a post-speech question from Donna Mathewson on the Hiawatha Slots situation. Mathewson, who is an avid horsewoman as well as a director of the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce and president of the Sarnia-Lambton Real Estate Board, expressed concern over a seeming lack of attention given to the horse race part of the equation.
"These animals are not pets," said Mathewson in staging her question to the group of politicians that had just spoken. "They're a business. Who's shedding a light on that?"
Bradley stepped up to the microphone to speak, first saying that he believes discussions are now ongoing to see corporate entities (gaming companies based in the U.S.) take over gaming in the province.
The mayor then hit OLG and its provincial masters with a verbal hardball.
"First of all, the government has given us the big lie on this. They're talking about subsidies. But we didn't get subsidies. We [the city of Sarnia] were paid to be the host community. The OLG has paid roughly $350 million a year to the host communities, the horse racing industry and everyone involved, but at the same time they've brought in $1.3 billion this year in revenue."
Bradley said anything short of keeping Hiawatha Slots open makes no economic sense whatsoever.
"When you look at a province that's suffering from deficit, it doesn't make sense," he added. "Not only that but it impacts on many more people than the Slots, from the racetracks to the farm gate. It puts in jeopardy 60,000 jobs for people who don't have an alternative."
Bradley concluded his comments on the OLG issue by saying that he and most of his municipal counterparts in the area are working hard to keep people working, whether that involves the OLG closure or the impending closure of the Sarnia Jail.
"It's the biggest thing I do in dealing with governments—trying to protect jobs."
When Mathewson asked if there was any hope at all that the province and the OLG would change its mind regarding the issue, Bradley quoted famed wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill:
"Never, ever, ever give up."