Day At The Track

Anthony MacDonald is in the political arena

02:08 AM 27 Apr 2014 NZST
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Harness racing Isthatallyagot, harness racing Anthony MacDonald, harness racing
Anthony Macdonald with his wife Amy
Anthony Macdonald driving Isthatallyagot
Anthony MacDonald - Guelph's PC candidate

Anthony Macdonald is ready to race, not just in harness racing, but in the political arena as well.

With all of the uncertainty that has shadowed the horse racing industry, Anthony is taking this cloud of uncertainty head on in what he hopes can be a wire to wire trip into Queen's Park. Where as a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for Guelph in the Ontario legislative he can stand up for what is needed in the Guelph region.

"For me it's all about perception and how we market the product and tell the story of the product" says Anthony on what should be the focal point to earn back public trust. "We don't do any of that right now and until we change our own perceptions of the industry how can we possibly change the perception of the general public.

"People are in a bad place right now in Ontario racing... we are being given is a superficial fix." Anthony explains, "We do not have a business plan in place for the horse racing industry in Ontario. We all learned the hard way. Two years ago, one day before the (Liberal Government) pulled the plug on the Slots program you wouldn't have heard me talking about this. I was an average horsemen that thought that if we were getting 'x' amount of dollars from the Government we should race for 'x' amount of dollars. There shouldn't be any sharing of the expenses with the race track operator, there shouldn't be any infrastructure put in place for marketing and that is where we all lost sight of what was going on."

Anthony is upfront in admitting he didn't realize what he had in horse racing until the Government pulled the rug from under the horsemen's feet. "Until you lose it, it's hard to realize what potential speed bumps will be along the way. I think we learned a hard lesson.

"If you can't put forth a business plan for yourself, you certainly can't put forth a business plan for the Government." Anthony says.

The biggest take away is the horse racing industry and any future Government involvement must ensure both sides are working together with open communication. From the horse racing industry that includes both track operators and the horsemen themselves.

"There are no politicians that are horse-people. I look around Queen's Park and there's nobody I can walk up to and have a lot in common with." Anthony says. "Yes there are intense people there and others who take their job very seriously but at the end of the day I feel like an outsider and that can be a good or bad thing. A lot of people respect that I don't have a political background and I have no wants to be a career politician. I am doing this because I feel I was put in a position to be able to help and I don't think I would respect myself if I didn't help."

There's no doubt the horsemen want to continue doing what they love while earning a decent living and the same goes for the track operators. The fundamental question is where the initial investment comes from and how do future earnings be put to work to ensure longevity for the horse racing industry.

"The horsemen need to have a business plan as do the race track operators need a business plan; you're not going to get anybody to invest in anything if you do not have a business plan." Anthony goes on to say, "If I am going to convince you to buy a horse, I have to explain to you why the horse is worth the money, where we are going to race, how we are going to make money and worst case scenario, what is the exit plan. How are we going to get your money back if things go bad?"

"We (the horsemen) were supposed to have a plan for the slot money and if we did, we didn't follow it. I am where I am right now and in all honesty I will die a happy man if my last breath was drawn the same day I raced horses. Everybody in this industry loves what they do."

It's all about the future and how money generated will continue to be reinvested for the next generation of horsemen to be successful and so forth. Anthony makes it clear if an action plan isn't put into place soon, there will not be another generation of horsemen and it's for this primary purpose Anthony wants to get involved and ensure there will be more guys like Scott Zeron, Jody Jamieson and Paul Macdonell.

In a way without even knowing it, that is what Anthony has been doing all along before entering the political arena. Many drivers and trainers can attest to working for Anthony and learning so much when it comes to handling horses which has contributed to their current success. Young top drivers like Jonathan Drury, Scott Zeron and James MacDonald have worked with Anthony and his stable.

"It wasn't my barn it was all of us, it was our barn. Scott Zeron came around and he was starting to train horses and had fun going with the babies and us on Saturday mornings. A lot of James shaping didn't come from me, it came from a guy who helped me run the stable, Jamie Smith. We worked hard but we had fun doing it" Anthony says.

As much as Anthony wants to help is fellow horsemen, he would prefer to help out everyone in the province of Ontario. Why make one industry strong when there is the possibility to strengthen them all?

"It doesn't matter if you're a farmer, if you race horses or you're in manufacturing or an electrician, the fact is the (current) Government has crushed everyone." Anthony says in frustration. "I am just like everyone else, sick and tired of the Government losing our money and no one is being held accountable."

"I really had my eyes open being around Tim Hudak, (who is the leader of the provincial PC party and opposition at Queen's Park) and listening to him talk and understanding exactly the different financial roles different sectors play in this province and in this country." Anthony continues, "The PC party wants what is best for everybody but they understand that people have to work for it and it's not just given to you."

Anthony reached his level of success in harness racing due to hard work and strong motivation. As Anthony put it, he came into the sport "broke" and had to clean stalls to earn his keep. He didn't have anyone hand him anything and it's due to his appreciation for hard work that Anthony feels he would be a great voice for anyone who started at the bottom.

"Some people expect a lot out of nothing and that's not how I was brought up." Anthony states. "When you make some money it's important to put it away and it's important to understand that... that's what we did in this industry, we got this money and watched it disappear. I remember my grandfather (James MacDonald) telling me it doesn't matter what you make, it's what you keep."

Anthony believes the plan moving forward for the horse industry must include revenue sharing. "You can't justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars of public money on racing horses when there is children sick and dying in the province. It's just not going to work and it's a band aid the Liberals are going to put on this industry because they were once again too stubborn and ignorant to go back on what they knew that the slots at the racetracks program was the proper program. All they had to do was fix the inadequacies in it. The fact was that there wasn't enough transparency and the fact there wasn't enough accountability."

Given the current provincial deficit is around $11,000,000,000 Anthony suggests instead of the horsemen getting ten percent of the slot revenue, they take a lower but fair and reasonable percentage..

"The Liberals wanted to ruin the program so they could put up 29 casinos in Ontario and they didn't want competition from a bunch of farmers and that's how they saw it." Anthony adds "that's how the casino operators saw us as, an unnecessary distraction."

"Do you think if the people of this industry were unionized, like the auto workers were that you would ever see cuts like this? No not at all. All they did was make us look bad over one week.... It was either going to be horse racing or healthcare. Right there that phrase doomed us." Anthony says.

It was an easy sell and an easy kill according to Anthony and with the current offer the Liberals have proposed to the horse racing industry, Anthony believes the Liberals are naive if they think it is going to work.

"The Liberal party is doomed for a number of reasons. When the Auditor General's OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation) report comes out on Monday it will be the final nail in their coffin for Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal party."

What the details of the Auditor General's special report on the OLG's Modernization Plan will entail one can only imagine, but expect Anthony to be on top of it and how any details released will further impact the horse racing industry. The Auditor General's special report on the OLG's Modernization Plan will be tabled in the Legislature at approximately 1 p.m. on Monday, April 28, 2014.

Office of the Auditor General of Ontario - Welcome

By: Roderick Balgobin  Twitter: ScSupernova

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