In light of a recent court decision, the Ontario Harness Horse Association (OHHA) is calling on the Ontario Provincial Government to engage in meaningful mediation with the breeders of Standardbred racehorses in Ontario to resolve the harm caused by the previous Liberal government in unilaterally and without warning ending the Slots at Racetracks Program (SARP). The SARP was a successful partnership negotiated between the previous Progressive Conservative Government and the horse racing and breeding industry.
The breeders of Standardbred racehorses began a legal challenge over six years ago. In a Superior Court of Justice ruling on June 29 (here), Justice M. Emery determined that breeders of Standardbred horses in Ontario should be compensated for damages that they incurred as a result of the cancellation of SARP.
The agricultural industry of breeding, training and racing Standardbred horses in Ontario is an essential component of a strong and vibrant agricultural economy. Without the producers of the racing horses, the racing industry in Ontario would struggle to find an adequate supply of horses to fill Ontario race cards, never mind export these equine athletes to foreign markets. Horse breeding is a major employer and economic driver in all parts of Ontario, particularly in small rural communities where most of the activity occurs.
OHHA maintains that the Standardbred breeders have suffered injury long enough. We encourage the Government to come to the table to settle this case and avoid any further hardship on the horse breeding industry. Unfortunately, some of the plaintiffs in the original action have passed away while this suit worked its way through the judicial process. OHHA believes that a mediated settlement, rather than a prolonged and costly appeal process is the proper and just way to resolve this issue. The government asked the Court to decide and the Court has given everyone the benefit of its review of the situation.
OHHA calls on all members of Provincial Government to support a settlement to bring this long standing, outstanding issue to resolution. It’s time the government sheath its legal sword. Rural Ontario is watching.