Ball in NSPE court if financial assistance is required, agricultural minister says
By Harry Sullivan
TRURO DAILY NEW
TRURO - The provincial government has no immediate plans in mind for bailing out the Truro Raceway, despite the fact the venerable facility is slated to shut down on Sunday.
“Not at this point,” Agriculture Minister John MacDonell told the Truro Daily News.
Speaking by telephone from Whitehorse, YT, MacDonell said the ball is in the court of the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Commission to present a business plan if it is seeking government funding to assist with its operations.
The commission, which is approximately $1 million in debt, decided Monday that following Sunday’s race card, the track will be shut down.
Horse trainers have also been notified that the electrical and water services to the stables will be shut off as of Aug. 15, at which point the barns are to be vacated.
Steve Morton, president of the Truro Harness Horse Owners Association, expressed hope on Wednesday that a plan could be created to save the harness racing facility.
“We’re working with government, they’re trying to work along with us… and we’re trying to find a solution to rectify the situation here,” he said. “We’re in the early stages of what’s happening here.”
But MacDonell said the onus is on the exhibition commission to bring its business plan to the table.
“I don’t see what it is that we would do because we don’t own the facility. But if the commission wants to come forward with something to help resolve it then we will be glad to listen to them,” he said. “So for me, if they come up with a business plan they want to bring to us, to kind of help move this along, we will be more than glad to take a look and talk with them.”
Given the commission’s long-standing financial situation, MacDonell said he had previously asked the board to provide him with a business proposal but that did not happen.
“I don’t think this is new, I think they have kind of been looking at financial issues for some time. I met with some of the board, the commission, some months ago and indicated to them then that we’d like to see a business plan of how they intend to kind of move the whole project forward to make it sustainable and we never received one,” he said.
“I think we have to kind of do the same as we do with anybody else. We expect others to come forward with a plan, something we can look at, so I think we would demand the same of them.”
However, Truro Bible Hill MLA Lenore Zann said she will be pushing for government assistance in an effort to at least keep harness racing operating for the summer. And she is also holding discussions with members of the harness industry and local businessmen to try to come up with a plan for continued operations.
“I’m personally dedicated to trying to help save them. There are people who are very keen to get involved and help to make it a going and viable concern,” said Zann, who added she has also been communicating with Premier Darrell Dexter’s office for assistance.
“I’m prepared to fight for it. I’m prepared to try and keep it going if possible. I think the people on the ground deserve that. I think the horsemen and women that have been putting their lives and souls and sweat and tears and money into this industry deserve at least a fight and a fighting chance.”