Updated: May 5
On Tuesday night, I spoke at the second meeting held by Kitchener City Council to help it decide whether the city is open to hosting a casino.
What follows is my planned presentation.
It’s not too late to contact city council and let them know your perspective on this issue. Ask them how they will vote on May 13.
Why would we break people only to try to repair them?
I oppose a casino. I oppose a casino in Kitchener. I oppose a casino in Woolwich. I oppose a casino anywhere in Waterloo Region. In fact, I oppose any expansion of casinos in Ontario.
I really should have come to speak last week because since then Regional Chair Seiling has stolen my thunder. I planned to come tonight and ask you to pass a motion requesting that Regional Council vote on whether this area is a willing host to a casino.
Instead, I appeal to Mayor Zehr as a member of Regional Council to support the Regional Chair and for the rest of council to speak to their counterparts from Kitchener to share what you’ve been hearing.
At least one member of Regional Council believes the motion is inappropriate but given that the responsibility for dealing with the social costs of problem gambling fall are paid with regional tax dollars, I believe the Region of Waterloo must take a position. (Note: I’m not alone. Luisa D’amato agrees.)
Considering that our region is one of the few left in Ontario with two levels of municipal government, I believe OLG is dealing in bad faith with our community by not dealing with our region as one community. Rather they prefer to wave dollar signs and pit community against community.
Indeed, we would not be here tonight if it were not for Woolwich’s decision. While I understand that public consultations were difficult to oppose, there was neither appetite for them nor any request to hold them despite the consultations happening in Woolwich. I think that indicates the lack of interest in having a casino in Kitchener.
Why? A casino just doesn’t fit with the culture of our community as captured by our city’s motto “Industry before prosperity.”
We have a strategic plan for Kitchener. We want to build a healthy community. This direction, approved by council, is the result of a series of public consultations held by Compass Kitchener and polling to get a wider perspective on what kind of Kitchener citizens want. If we are to be open to hosting a casino, I believe it’s important to connect that decision to how it makes our city a safe and healthy community—as is routine with all matters before council.
In the words of Richard Florida whose theories on attracting and maintaining the creative class have shaped our city’s economic development strategy:
There are lots of things that economic development experts disagree about …
But about one thing, urbanists across the ideological spectrum are unanimous. And that is that building casinos, especially in an already thriving downtown, is a truly terrible idea.
If any other business looked to council for support and admitted that it’s product was connected to an increase in suicide and bankruptcy, the answer would be no.
We know there are social costs associated with problem gambling. No amount of money can mitigate those negative consequences.
Why would we break people—and their loved ones who are also victims—only to try to repair them?
Update May 7: City advisory committees weigh in on casino bid