Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Open Letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, by Clint Rohr

Below is a letter that I received from Clint Rohr, he is a member of the Woolwich Concerned Citizens Against Gambling Expansion group.  If you share in these views please write a similar letter to our premier. You can send your comments to premier@ontario.ca.  I would like to take a moment to suggest that you write a letter with substance and sincerity like Clint has below. You can also check out noWRcasino.com.

Thanks for your support.



From: Clint Rohr,
Member of Woolwich Concerned Citizens Against Gambling Expansion
April 6, 2013

Premier Kathleen Wynne,
Parliament Buildings,  Toronto, Ont.

Dear Premier Wynne:
I am writing to express my concern regarding the impact OLG’s Modernization Plan has on the citizens of Woolwich Township, as well as the Region of Waterloo.   My two primary concerns are the community consultation process expected by OLG and the implications of a lower tier municipality governed by five elected officials having the right to make a decision that will impact in excess of 500,000 Regional residents.  My request is that you put an immediate freeze on all pending and future applications, plus  create legislation that requires municipalities to hold referendums on the question prior to any approvals by OLG. Here is what is happening in our Region and a zone that already has slots at Grand River Raceway.

On March 5, 2013, Woolwich Mayor and three of four councilors voted in favor of submitting an application to OLG to become a host community.  They did this in spite of 62% of 1866 respondents voting “NO” to a questionnaire sent out in November, 2012.  The opportunity for citizens to respond to a biased questionnaire in favor of a casino was flawed in many ways.  Only one, mailed as flyer,  was sent to each household, irrespective as to how many adults were in the home. Many did not receive them in the mail. Expected response time was less than three weeks, with a deadline being  Dec. 21 during the busy Christmas season. A significant population of rural Mennonites, whose faith discourages them from involvements of this nature, was minimized.

At the three Public Meetings, community members spoke at least 5-1 against having a casino.  When the Mayor was challenged that he and council members were not listening to the public response that came via the questionnaire, he in effect said the questionnaire was of minimal importance.  This, he said, after informing us at the Nov. 20, 2012  OLG presentation meeting that “transparency and public consultation” were high priorities.  In addition, the Regional Medical Officer of Health presented, noting the negative consequences of gambling, as well as the increased risks that come when it is more accessible.  Research from the Ontario Problem Gambling Research was presented high lighting the negative consequences, plus information indicating the same from a psychiatrist who formerly headed addictions at Homewood in Guelph.  Regional politicians directly and indirectly cautioned our elected leaders on the issue.  Yet, they voted “yes”. Although our Mayor and three of the four councilors are first term inexperienced elected officials, one would reasonably conclude we citizens could expect more from them on a multi-faceted issue of this magnitude.  When OLG requires community consultation as part of the application process, it has to mean it will be taken seriously as part of the application process.  Anything less is a mockery of the whole process.  It is my opinion, the low value placed on public consultation negates and makes invalid the Woolwich application.

Equally critical is the issue of Woolwich being a lower tier municipality within the Region of Waterloo. Imagine, a council of five making a decision that not only impacts Woolwich 23,000 plus residents, but all 500, 000 plus citizens within Waterloo Region. How can this be allowed?  Our Region is becoming more and more integrated and we citizens are experiencing better services as a result of it. Until Woolwich made their decision there was little interest in having a casino in the Region.  Now the two cities, Kitchener and Waterloo  (Cambridge, as well as Wilmot, had already said “no”)  have to seriously reconsider the question because they know there will be a range of costs that comes with casino they will have to bare.  They rightly ask, “Why should we foot these costs and Woolwich be the benefactor?”  OLG must realize this might happen within a two tiered municipality such as ours.

Pitting municipalities against one another cannot be tolerated. Having been a community builder for years I vouch for the hard work it takes in creating healthy communities, productive and creative communities, supportive and sustainable communities. Yet, it only takes a single poor decision that doesn’t look at the whole picture to have these efforts crumble.  Right now, before we even get close to final approvals in the OLG application process, we in Woolwich and in the Region of Waterloo are struggling and trying to deal with the negative fall out of the Woolwich decision.

Madam Premier we need your help immediately on two fronts. We need you to implement an immediate freeze on all pending and future applications by municipalities to become “host communities” for OLG.  The second desperate need is for you and the house to create legislation requiring all municipalities, considering a casino, to have the question on the ballot at the next municipal election.  There also needs to be clarity that those in regions with lower tier municipalities default to the regional governments.  Of course OLG, as a responsible government agency, will also need to adjust their “modernization plan” to accommodate this.  Most of us can handle the democratic process when it is rolled out with integrity.

I thank you for your attention, respectfully,

Clint Rohr

c.c. Rod Phillips, CEO of  OLG

Clint Rohr is the retired Executive Director of Woolwich Community Health Centre, St. Jacobs, and formerly held positions as CAO of Lutherwood Children’s Mental Health Centre, Waterloo; Coordinating Chaplain at West Park Hospital, Toronto; Pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, Oakville; Exec. Director of Grace House in Oakville, and Pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Halifax.

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