I recently penned a piece in the Atlantic Post Calls, the premier Maritime racing paper on looking ahead to the 2014 and looking for positives for racing in New Brunswick.
While it was a challenge in compiling positive information without a one thing to focus on, one thing became clear. New Brunswick horse racing, and some involved, feel the only hope is a change in government in 2014.
This fall, the New Brunswick electorate will have the chance to choose four more years of the Alward Tories, or take a change on a new young politician in Brian Gallant to lead the province.
While there are three other options in N.B when it comes to official parties, I would be shocked to see anything but a Red/ Blue party again leading the province.
So where does that leave harness racing? From everyone I have contacted, it seems to be a growing agreement that a change to a Liberal government is the only hope. As many are aware, the gov't opted out of the five-year deadline to support racing any further.
It was the Shawn Graham led Liberals, who then had Mike Murphy in cabinet who is a horse owner and breeder that struck the deal when in power. Graham was turfed out after only one term and then it was up to the industry to keep things flowing with the Tories led by Alward and Finance Minister Blaine Higgs, a rookie cabinet choice with experience with the Irving Empire.
It was no secret when the Tories took over that the province was in a dismal state of finance and it was up to Higgs and the new caucus to reign in spending, and horse racing was one area that was cut.
There was even talk of a lawsuit by Horse Racing New Brunswick against the gov't for a breach of contract and a feasibility study was done, reportedly just to pacify the industry. Many insiders say the study was never going to amount to anything and was nothing more than a stall tactic.
Also, there has been talk that gov't is not interested in dealing with H.R.N.B the way it is set-up now. So, it appears that the industry leaders in the province will do all they can to keep racing going this spring with approx. 23-24 dates in total.
They will wait and see how the election of 2014 turns out and take it from there. Politics- they play a part in just about everything, including harness racing. Let's hope something can be done to keep the tradition of N.B racing alive but it may rest, as I mentioned, all up to politics. Scary.
By Scott Waddell, for New Brunswick Horse Racing. Contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org