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Eric Riehl, MWMG

Eric Riehl, MWMG

Catherine O'Hara, Review reporter

Horse racing, pipeline make headlines in 2012

By Catherine O’Hara • Acting Editor

As the year winds to a close, it has become a tradition for reporters at the Review to look back on the events and issues that made headlines in the community.

Flipping through the pages of past issues of the Review, I couldn’t help but notice the large number of ongoing stories published in the paper, starting in winter, when the Ontario Liberal government announced it was axing the Slots at Racetracks program, effective March 2013, in a bid to modernize gaming across the province.

The decision rocked Flamborough’s vibrant horse racing industry, which includes hundreds if not thousands of local horse people who now feared for their livelihood.

The Slots at Racetracks program, as detailed extensively in the Review, is a profit-sharing agreement between the province and the racetracks. It was implemented in the 1990s to help fund essential services like health care and education, but was also designed to further enhance live racing. Since its inception, however, there has been a glaring lack of oversight.

In the spring, the future of Flamborough’s horse racing industry and that of the province was looking pretty grim. The Review spoke extensively with horsemen and the association that represents them as they raced towards an uncertain future.

Then, there was a glimmer of hope.

A blue-ribbon panel was struck to investigate the impacts of the government’s decision to cancel the revenue-sharing program and pen recommendations that would allow the industry to become more sustainable.

The panel’s interim findings, released in August, established that the government made the right decision in cancelling the program, adding that reinstating it would be “poor public policy.” However, without a lifeline, “the horse racing industry in Ontario will cease to exist,” stated the panel in its report.

Following the release of its interim report, the panel’s mandate was extended and the government tasked the group of former cabinet ministers to further explore ways the province, racetracks and horse people could work together to ensure the industry’s survival.

In October, the all-party panel’s final report was released, which outlined a new model that would enable the horse racing industry to move forward. This report, while well received by the government, left much to be desired by members of the harness horse racing industry, who raised significant concerns with the proposal.

To date, the industry is in a state of flux. I think it’s fair to assume that the future of horse racing in Flamborough – and beyond – will continue to make headlines in 2013.

But it isn’t the only story that grabbed headlines in the Review this year.

The other aspect of the government’s decision to modernize gaming across the province has also taken up countless pages in the paper as Hamilton councillors grapple with whether the city wants to play host to a casino in its downtown core.

In July, the National Energy Board (NEB) conditionally approved Enbridge Pipeline’s plans to reverse the flow of oil on a section of a pipeline that runs between Sarnia and Westover.

Most recently, the company applied for the board’s support to reverse the flow on another section of Line 9, this one running from Westover to Montreal. In its November application, it also asked for permission to carry heavy crude.

While Flamborough councillors, including Robert Pasuta (Ward 14) and Judi Partridge (Ward 15), say they have not received any concerns from their constituents about the pipeline company’s plans, many individuals across the city fear that changes to the flow and the type of oil carried through the pipe could result in a spill that would negatively impact the local environment.

The NEB is still reviewing Enbridge’s application.

As stories on these topics dominated headlines in 2012, so, too, have local organizations.

Service clubs, including the Flamborough and Waterdown Rotary Clubs, the Optimists and local Lions groups, and organizations such as Drummond House, the Flamborough Food Bank and Grandmothers of Steel, have done tremendous work in Flamborough over the course of the last 12 months.

Their dedication to the community is unwavering, which means that there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see them featured in the Review next year.

Individuals and community leaders have also made a difference locally. They include Nancy Mills, a tireless volunteer affiliated with numerous organizations around town, Flamborough’s Linda Baine, a staunch advocate for the hard of hearing, and the Crewsons, a Waterdown family and Compassion International supporters, who have gone the extra mile to help children living in impoverished regions of the world.

These residents are just some of the many movers and shakers who call Flamborough home. While I’m sure they’ll remain just as active in the community in 2013, there will be others whose actions and commitment to this great town will be featured in the Review next year.

And I look forward to meeting with them and sharing their stories.

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