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Ontario election to determine fate of Fort Erie Race Track

Mike Desmond

The future of the Fort Erie Race Track may hinge on the outcome of the upcoming Ontario provincial election.

The track is owned by a corporate partnership called CMP and is leased by Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, which actually runs the heavily subsidized races. Now, the property owners have the place on the market, although the horse operations would continue if sold.

Developer Carl Paladino's Ellicott Development is one of the owners of CMP.

"These people are trying very hard to keep that track alive and it was really dumb to pull the casino gambling out of the track a few years back," Paladino said. "Now they have to subsidize the track with about $9 million a year and they're doing everything they can to put it out of business. So from our perspective, we're going to see what the market is. If the Conservatives win, we will not sell the track."

However, given the track and Southern Ontario have suffered under Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government, if she wins another term, the track will be sold.

"The southern peninsula here of Ontario has been treated like the awkward son. It's all controlled," Paladino said. "This Liberal government is all about Toronto and the growth of Toronto, which is, by the way, starting to feel a nightmare right now. Their residential prices are falling because they way overbuilt."

Paladino said his ownership group had planned hotels and restaurants to serve the auto racing track planned for the area near the horse race track, but that proposal seems to have faded, giving the partnership even less reason to hold on to the property.

"Those people that were going to put in the Canadian Speedway fell on their face and haven't done anything," Paladino said. "We were looking to build services that would be supportive of that track effort and they, sort of like, disappeared."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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