The president of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) has thrown his support behind the call for transparency in the "slots at racetrack" controversy.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas urged the government today to come clean with its findings on what wealthy racetrack owners did with the money that was intended to support an industry vital to the lives of 50,000 rural Ontarians, their families and their communities.
"Throughout government we are seeing the incremental creep of the corporate agenda," said Thomas. "Increasingly, we are seeing tax dollars designed to support worthwhile projects being funneled to the wealthiest Ontarians.
"Name the scandal: e Health, ORNGE, power plants, and social assistance transformation. Money intended to produce positive results for hard-working Ontarians and the most vulnerable is ending up in the pockets of the elite and their power-broker buddies. It's like a reverse Robin Hood mentality has taken our province hostage."
A recent Toronto Star article pointed to Woodbine Entertainment and other wealthy racetrack owners spending slots money on executive bonuses rather than the race track improvements they were intended to fund. Amid concerns of another scandal, former finance minister Dwight Duncan scrapped the program destroying the lives of thousands of rural Ontarians and their families.
"The rich got caught with their hands in the cookie jar and honest 'salt of the earth' horsemen have paid the price. Woodbine goes on, while rural families languish," said Thomas.
The Ontario Harness Horseman Association alerted the government to the inappropriate use of taxpayer money, but little was done until the threat of another scandal motivated the Liberal government to scrap the program. Horsemen fearful for their future could not speak out because of private property rights that allow racetracks to kick out 'troublemakers.'
Thomas pointed to a culture that is now pervasive throughout government.
"While right-wing extremists like Conservative party leaderTim Hudak point to hard-working Ontarians and their unions as the culprit, he is allowing the erosion of quality public services in favour of personal and corporate greed," added Thomas.
The OPSEU president went on to indict the current government's love affair with the business class.
"All of these corporate panels being set up by the McGuinty/Wynne government guarantee only one thing; Working people and their families will have no say, no influence and little hope of impacting government policy. Corporate nests will continue to be feathered, while the backbone of this province is chipped away. It's time for us all to band together and clearly state that enough is enough."
Warren (Smokey) Thomas President, OPSEU 613-329-1931