North Glengarry municipal council recently defeated a resolution put forward by the mayor of Fort Erie, home of one of the racetracks targeted by the Dalton McGuinty government’s controversial removal of slot machines from racetracks. Not unreasonably, Fort Erie was seeking support from other municipalities for the horse racing industry.
Also not unreasonably, in the circumstances, a majority of North Glengarry council members couldn’t figure out what the issue had to do with them. After all, as one noted, the nearest track is in Ottawa, about 100 kilometres away from their rural agricultural community.
Few outside the horse industry could be expected to know that horse racing generates an estimated $2 billion per year in spending in the province: everything from veterinary services, feed and hay to fencing, trucks and trailers. About 80 per cent of that money is spent in rural, agricultural communities.
The slots decision hurts agriculture and it provides some costly lessons for farmers. This saga is complex and there is enough blame for both the premier and the horse people to share.
Initially, there was much speculation about how this controversy would play out. Once enough facts became known, it was clear this would be our June cover story. The best person to write it was also an easy choice: one of our regular freelancers, veteran farm writer Bernard Tobin, a racehorse owner himself. His story begins on page 12.
Another issue that may not have been taken as seriously as it should have been is the disappearance of quarantined sheep from a Northumberland farm shortly before Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) personnel were scheduled to arrive there. We have reported on this extensively on our website (www.betterfarming.com), but in the early days of this debacle it was hard to get detailed information from CFIA.
As things progressed, however, both CFIA and the industry have been more forthcoming and have presented a consistent message: that the missing sheep, likely a source of a contagious and reportable disease, represent a serious situation which could affect Canada’s international reputation as well as the future of our burgeoning sheep industry.
On page 32, senior staff editor Don Stoneman provides a fresh perspective on this situation. In the meantime, if you have any information about the missing sheep, you should call Crime Stoppers.
Smart phones were the topic of a cover story 18 months ago. Technology is changing fast and writer Mike Mulhern took another look at smart phones gaining acceptance in the commercial farm work place. That story starts on page 26. BF
ROBERT IRWIN & DON STONEMAN