Day At The Track

Truro Raceway-Ex spilt not recommended

07:00 AM 11 Jan 2018 NZDT
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Truro Raceway, harness racing
A possible restructuring by the province could see Truro Raceway and the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition go their separate ways.
Harry Sullivan Photo

Separating the Truro Raceway operations from the management of Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition Commission (NSPEC) would not be a recommended move from the perspective of a longtime harness racing proponent.

“How do you divide it up when there’s events going on, on either side,” said Bruce Kennedy, who has had “my finger on the pulse over there for the last 50 years almost.”

“That should be under one management to get the full benefit out of it,” he said, of the various activities that are held at both the raceway and the NSPE complex.

Kennedy’s comments came in response to a recent article published in the Truro Daily News regarding what is believed to be a planned restructuring by the provincial government the will see the operations of the Truro Raceway separated from the NSPEC.

Agriculture minister Keith Colwell met with a number of local officials in a closed meeting in mid December during which he said an announcement regarding the NSPEC will be forthcoming.

News of that meeting prompted a response from Lenore Zann, MLA for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River, who said the minister had informed her last fall of his intentions to separate the two entities.

Although Zann said Colwell did not indicate his reasons for wanting to separate the two operations, she said she was left with the impression the decision is being made for financial reasons.

In early 2014 Colwell called in the NSPEC’s $422,000 debt to the Nova Scotia Farm Loan board, relieved the board members at that time of their responsibilities and ultimately established a new operating board.

At that point, the NSPEC carried a total outstanding debt load of $1 million.

Colwell’s department is currently refusing to release any financial information pertaining to the NSPEC and the only statement it will offer on the issue is to say “the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition is an important organization for the agriculture sector and for the economy in the region and province. We are working with the exhibition.”

“So I would say this latest decision is both a ‘calling in of the markers’ (by writing off the Farm Loan debt) but it is also political - a way for this Liberal minister to take control of the NSPE … while cutting the raceway loose and letting them fend for themselves - sink or swim,” Zann said.

Kennedy who has been involved in the harness racing industry, including as an owner for the past 50 years, including as both a member and chairman of the former commission board and president of the Harness Racing Association, among other roles, said he believes separating the two organization is not the best way to make the raceway financially viable.

“The thing, I guess, that might concern me is the harness racing side of it,” he said.

Kennedy said he doesn’t know what Colwell plans to do with the facility but separating the two operations and expecting the raceway to survive on its on simply will not work.

“There’s just too much cost and overhead to it,” he said.

Currently, the provincial government allocates $1 million a year to the Harness Racing Industry Council, which is split between the Truro Raceway and the tracks in North Sydney and Inverness.

The money, the bulk of which goes to the Truro Raceway, is used both to supplement race purses and for infrastructure at the tracks.

But Kennedy said the amount is too little to split among three tracks. Additionally there are just not enough racehorses in Atlantic Canada anymore to justify having three tracks in Nova Scotia, Kennedy said.

“In my book we don’t have enough for two racetracks,” he said. “They’re racing for such a small amount of money, that the guys go out there and they’re really subsidizing themselves. There’s not enough money to race for to pay your bills.”

Kennedy said he and other harness racers are travelling to the United States where they can still enjoy the sport while earning enough from larger purses there to make it financially worthwhile.

 “But we can’t do it at home,” he said. “Pretty sad.”

By Harry Sullivan

Reprinted with permission of The Truro Daily News

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