Ball in NSPE court if financial assistance is required, agricultural minister says

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Ball in NSPE court if financial assistance is required, agricultural minister says

By Harry Sullivan

TRURO DAILY NEW

TRURO - The provincial government has no immediate plans in mind for bailing out the Truro Raceway, despite the fact the venerable facility is slated to shut down on Sunday.

“Not at this point,” Agriculture Minister John MacDonell told the Truro Daily News.

Speaking by telephone from Whitehorse, YT, MacDonell said the ball is in the court of the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Commission to present a business plan if it is seeking government funding to assist with its operations.

The commission, which is approximately $1 million in debt, decided Monday that following Sunday’s race card, the track will be shut down.

Horse trainers have also been notified that the electrical and water services to the stables will be shut off as of Aug. 15, at which point the barns are to be vacated.

Steve Morton, president of the Truro Harness Horse Owners Association, expressed hope on Wednesday that a plan could be created to save the harness racing facility.

“We’re working with government, they’re trying to work along with us… and we’re trying to find a solution to rectify the situation here,” he said. “We’re in the early stages of what’s happening here.”

But MacDonell said the onus is on the exhibition commission to bring its business plan to the table.

“I don’t see what it is that we would do because we don’t own the facility. But if the commission wants to come forward with something to help resolve it then we will be glad to listen to them,” he said. “So for me, if they come up with a business plan they want to bring to us, to kind of help move this along, we will be more than glad to take a look and talk with them.”

Given the commission’s long-standing financial situation, MacDonell said he had previously asked the board to provide him with a business proposal but that did not happen.

“I don’t think this is new, I think they have kind of been looking at financial issues for some time. I met with some of the board, the commission, some months ago and indicated to them then that we’d like to see a business plan of how they intend to kind of move the whole project forward to make it sustainable and we never received one,” he said.

“I think we have to kind of do the same as we do with anybody else. We expect others to come forward with a plan, something we can look at, so I think we would demand the same of them.”

However, Truro Bible Hill MLA Lenore Zann said she will be pushing for government assistance in an effort to at least keep harness racing operating for the summer. And she is also holding discussions with members of the harness industry and local businessmen to try to come up with a plan for continued operations.

“I’m personally dedicated to trying to help save them. There are people who are very keen to get involved and help to make it a going and viable concern,” said Zann, who added she has also been communicating with Premier Darrell Dexter’s office for assistance.

“I’m prepared to fight for it. I’m prepared to try and keep it going if possible. I think the people on the ground deserve that. I think the horsemen and women that have been putting their lives and souls and sweat and tears and money into this industry deserve at least a fight and a fighting chance.”

hsullivan@trurodaily.com

Twitter: tdnharry

Organizations: Truro Daily News, Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Commission, Truro Harness Horse Owners Association

Geographic location: Whitehorse

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  • PEI Taxpayer
    July 11, 2013 - 23:00

    PEI harness racing is not paying for itself, far from it. It very rarely meets breakeven and is being continually subsidized by the taxpayer. The Red Shore management and PEI government are doing a fantastic job of B.S. to the public. So do not use Red Shores on PEI as a model or you will regret it if you do.

  • AR
    July 11, 2013 - 18:27

    Unfortunately harness racing has been on a slow steady decline for the past 30 years. Modern ways to gamble and casinos have cut into the bet at all of the tracks. The link below is a similar type of storey from a maritime horseman in Ontario. http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/2013/02/13/hamilton-rankin-horses.html

  • Frank Walters
    July 11, 2013 - 14:51

    I cannot see wasting anymore of the taxpayers money on harness racing at Truro. They have been given a $1,000,000 handout every year for racing in Nova Scotia yet they still find themselves a million in the hole @Truro? I'm not sure how stable the Cape Breton track is but maybe the province should only have 1 track anyhow? It's one of 2 things it's been mismanaged or it's just a losing proposition, which I believe is probably some of both. I like harness racing but am tired of them being a burden on the taxpayers. I truly believe that with the million dollars from the govt. and proper management that one track could operate in the province without going in the hole.

    • White
      July 12, 2013 - 06:15

      Welfare is missmanaged to but we hand a hell of a lot more of it out than the race track needs.These people are going to lose their jobs.If the gov. invests money at least these people will be working for the money

  • NS Girl
    July 11, 2013 - 11:13

    Don't care about the racing at all but what happens with the Dutch Mason Blues Festival and the Provincial Exhibition.

  • chief wiggam
    July 11, 2013 - 09:23

    money pit that track is.

  • RegReader
    July 11, 2013 - 08:09

    Cut them off from public money please.... this is no longer a viable business model.

  • jack
    July 10, 2013 - 20:11

    No more government money, they have been given money before . They are a million in debt ,so shut it down apparently they are not runningit right .Due not give money to the Ex either they have nothing there neither

    • Jeff
      July 11, 2013 - 11:14

      The province needs to get involved here and it sounds like the Minister is interested in what is going on. While I agree a viable business plan needs to be in place there still has to be a short term solution to ensure the horsemen have a place for their horses and some reason to have hope. Otherwise they will pack up and head to greener pastures in neighboring Prince Edward Island or Ontario. Like other home grown talents that we allow to migrate many of harness racing's best have left the province in the past but we are still fortunate to have quality individuals here still plying their trade. People seem to forget it was the province that dealt harness racing a lethal blow when the government of the day bent over backwards to bring the casinos to Nova Scotia with a moratorium on harness racing in Halifax. The provincial government should take a look at what has happened in PEI. Stabilizing harness racing there has brought growth not only within the industry but also in tourism and agriculture. Also consideration needs to be given to the fact that gaming dollars that flow to harness racing have a far less damaging social impact than those that make their way to casinos and VLT's. The enjoyment of wagering on a majestic animal every 20 minutes far out weighs the constant bing bong bing mind numbing noise that emulates from a machine that continuously sucks the cash out of the pockets of the patrons that choose that form of gambling. Make harness racing more accessible and enjoyable for the public and the same thing will happen in Nova Scotia as has taken place in PEI. Don't under estimate the impact on the businesses that are associated with horse racing either; feed companies, harness racing supply stores, vets, farriers, farmers, restaurants, hotels and more will all see a drop in revenue that will have an impact on their operations and staff levels. Yes, there has to be a long term plan that ensures sustainability but the immediate requirement is a life preserver to keep the racetrack afloat in the short term.