SEE NEWSPAPER EDITORIAL BELOW
by Steve Wolf
Industry worth tens of millions in sales, jobs, economic spinoffs
The highlights of Old Home Week and the Provincial Exhibition have arrived with today’s parade and Saturday night’s Gold Cup and Saucer race. This morning, thousands will line downtown streets for the Gold Cup Parade, widely regarded as the largest such event in eastern Canada. Crowds will likely be as large for the harness racing finale at Red Shores in Charlottetown as 15,000 to 20,000 fans will wait patiently until midnight to see the top nine trial qualifiers go to post. The forecast indicates the weather will be spectacular for both events.
The two popular traditions are critically important to P.E.I. in terms of tourism and economic spinoffs, especially harness racing. The Old Home Week racing schedule is unmatched anywhere, and horsemen come from throughout eastern Canada and the U.S. to take in the action.
This week always returns the focus on harness racing and its long history on P.E.I. A quick review of the facts reiterates that racing is big business in this province which is the last thriving centre for the sport in eastern Canada. Harness racing generates tens of millions of dollars for the provincial economy, says a recent study carried out by MRSB, which estimates that average direct annual expenditures in the industry are $36.5 million and that it generates total sales of $81.6 million. The industry supports an estimated 750 jobs, creates $2.2 million in provincial tax revenues, $3.7 million in federal and municipal tax revenues and impacts GDP by $31.1 million.
Those are impressive numbers. Also, the spinoffs for support industries in agriculture, business and institutions like the Atlantic Veterinary College are enormous.
The Kentucky of Canada has more horses per capita than any other province or state in North America. Since the province and Atlantic Loto got on board with major support and renovations at both Summerside and Charlottetown, MRSB estimates that the total number of horses racing increased by 42 percent since 2003, the number of standardbred owners increased by 28 per cent with a 31 per cent increase in the number of breeders. Prince Edward Island produces approximately two-thirds of horses raised in the region.
Unlike other areas, the industry appears to be in good shape on P.E.I. Trouble abounds at Truro Raceway, which almost closed down this summer and is hanging on by a thread. Ontario tracks are still reeling from the loss of slot machine revenues.
Outside owners and drivers are flooding to P.E.I. One of the biggest issues in Charlottetown is finding space to stable the extra horses at the track. It’s a good problem to have.