This weekend, many Ontario race tracks will come to life, some of them for the first time since 2019. Under the province’s Step 1 guidelines, there will be no fans in attendance, which means these facilities will lose money.
In spite of the province’s citizens working hard to reach the lower infection, higher vaccination and lower hospitalization rates outlined in Step 2 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen, we’re not scheduled to see that happen until July 2.
But even with that Step 2 milestone just 14 days away, the province’s racing facilities still have no idea about what your definition is for the term “Open with spectator capacity and other restrictions.”
Does that mean 100 people in the stands, like it did last summer?
Or does it mean 50 percent of seating capacity?
No one knows. Because the province isn’t giving any answers.
The tracks have dealt in good faith, working together to prepare a document called “Back to the Track – Opening with Spectators.”
It outlines the safety protocols they’ll implement to keep everyone safe, while allowing them to reopen.
But as of today – two weeks out from supposedly reopening with fans – they have heard nothing from you or your government about what they’ll be allowed to do.
That they haven’t received guidance, at this point, is inexcusable.
If they can only allow 100 people in, many of them will likely choose not to reopen, again, this season.
But if they can allow between 35% and 50%, then they need to be given the time to ramp up. They need to hire staff to be able to welcome fans in a safe environment. They need to order food and other supplies. And they need to be able to advertise the fact they’re open again.
Canada’s Wonderland recently announced that it would be opening in early July, with “limited capacity.”
Mr. Ford, did you tell Canada’s Wonderland what its attendance capacity can be?
If not, is Canada’s Wonderland deciding on its own how many people to let in and what protocols to follow?
In response to an unresponsive government, should Ontario’s tracks just decide on their own how many people to let in?
And if you did give Canada’s Wonderland guidance on attendance capacity, why won’t you extend the same courtesy to Ontario’s racing facilities?
The group of promoters has compiled financial data that demonstrates the financial benefits related to their industry.
They’ve done their homework and deserve the courtesy of fair, considered answers.
According to the group, an estimated 2.4 million people attend racing events each year, in Ontario, with an average 120,000 people involved in some form of racing activity, each weekend during the summer.
In terms of total economic impact, the group says the total economic impact, per year, of racing in Ontario is over $58 million. Add in visitor (attendee) spending and it’s over $73 million.
Without fans, these numbers are reduced to almost nothing. It’s a brief season and we’re already within a week of the days starting to get shorter.
Mr. Premier, you keep saying that you want to reopen more than anyone.
Words mean nothing when they aren’t backed up with actions.
If you’re going to continue to shutter Ontario’s racing industry, then at least have the guts to say so.
If you and your government haven’t thought about the racing industry and don’t know how many people are going to be allowed into track starting July 2 – and under what guidelines – at least have the guts to say so.
And if it’s on the tracks to decide, unilaterally, how many people they can let into their facilities on July 2 and what safety measures they need to implement to keep fans and racers safe, at least have the courtesy to say so.
Because based on where things stand right now, it doesn’t look like you or your government care – or have thought about this industry – at all.