"Toronto has been presented a golden opportunity, folks."
Following City staff’s final report on a proposed casino in Toronto—a report which neither endorsed nor rejected the suggestion that we permit one—Mayor Rob Ford is touting the facility’s potential to boost the city’s economy.
“Toronto has been presented a golden opportunity, folks,” Ford said a a press conference this afternoon, “an opportunity that creates jobs, stimulates our economy, and makes Toronto a preferred convention destination.”
In his remarks Ford repeatedly described his support for “a new convention and gaming” facility. His focus on convention space component of the proposed complex, rather than the casino itself—the jewel of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission’s expansion strategy—is a shift for his administration. Many concerned community groups, including a coalition of religious leaders, have condemned the proposed expansion of gambling facilities in Toronto.
When asked why a new convention centre needs a casino to thrive, Ford replied, “you want to have something to do after your meeting or convention. You want to have a place like a casino to go with your spouse or business partners.”
Ford repeated his claim that a casino would earn the municipal government as much as $150 million in revenue—an estimate is based City staff’s hope that the province will give Toronto a much more generous revenue deal than other municipalities with casinos receive, and in defiance of Premier Kathleen Wynne, who earlier today reiterated that there would be no special deals for Toronto. Ford described the estimates in today’s staff report as accurate, but added it “might be off by a few million here or there.”
Ford conceded that he didn’t have any indication from the premier that Toronto might receive a special revenue sharing agreement. “She has to look out for all of Ontario,” Ford said of Wynne. “I have to look out for the people of the city…I’m going to fight for the citizens like I always have.”
A complete transcript of Rob Ford’s remarks—
Toronto has been presented a golden opportunity, folks, an opportunity that creates jobs, stimulates our economy, and makes Toronto a preferred convention destination.
Toronto currently ranks 33rd in North America as a convention destination, but we are the fourth largest city on the continent. We should be in the top 10 at least in conventions. We need a new, bigger, full service convention and exhibition facility to achieve that. A new convention and gaming complex in Toronto would create 10,000 good-paying union jobs for the hard-working people of this city—good quality jobs with an average salary of approximately $55,000. That’s important because Toronto’s unemployment rate has been higher than the rest of Canada for far too long. In addition this project will create between seven to eleven thousand constructions jobs—that’s on top of the 10,000 permanent jobs, folks. That’s great news for Toronto and Ontario. More people working means more people paying income tax to the province and buying goods and services from Toronto businesses.
A new convention and gaming complex will attract 130,000 new business visitors to Toronto each year, and generate $392 million in direct spending, and inject $1.2 billion into Toronto and Ontario’s GDP. That’s good news for Toronto and Ontario: more spending means more taxes collected by the province and a boost to our overall economy.
Soon, council will have to decide on whether or not to permit a new convention and gaming complex in Toronto. I believe we should say yes, absolutely yes, on terms that work for Toronto. This opportunity should be assessed on the facts—on the facts, folks—not on emotion or political rhetoric, like you heard this morning.
The fact is gaming is not new to Toronto. The fact is Toronto needs more good-paying, quality jobs, and this will create 10,000 good-paying union jobs, like I said before. The fact is this is a golden opportunity that may not come up again. A convention and gaming complex in Toronto could generate about $150 million for the city each and every year. This is money that could be used to fund rapid transit and infrastructure while keeping Toronto an affordable place to live, work, and play.
Toronto is not asking for a special deal; we are asking for a fair share. Any city that can attract a $2 billion-plus investment, that will produce well over a billion dollars in annual gaming revenue should get a fair share of that revenue. Any city that shares the risk with the province, as we will, any city that has skin in the game as we do, should receive a fair share.
The fact is OLG has been clear: there will be a new casino, guaranteed folks, in the GTA somewhere. If it’s not in Toronto it will be right on our border or right across the street. The fact is, if they build a casino on our doorstep, which they will, the province won’t benefit as much and Toronto won’t benefit as all.
Based on the facts, I believe council should support 10,000 good-paying union jobs. Council should support $150 million annually for rapid transit infrastructure instead of doing the easy thing, and that’s just to raise taxes. Council should support a $1.2 billion influx into our local economy, which creates more jobs, and council should support a new convention and gaming facility in this great city for businesses and tourists for years to come.
And his full reply to that question from a reporter, asking why the city doesn’t just pursue a convention centre project without attaching a casino to it—
People who go to a convention, you want to have the restaurants, you want to have something to do after your meeting or convention, you want to have a place like a casino to go with your spouse or with your business partners. You don’t just go to a convention and go back to your hotel room. You want to do something else.
We could do it, but that’s not the type of city we want. We want a vibrant city.