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Ontario Liberals toying with Protectionism in the Online Gaming sector...By Hartley Henderson

The Ontario Liberals want to pass a bill prohibiting advertising of offshore gambling companies in the province. They claim that offshore gambling is illegal in Ontario and that the bill is necessary to stop offshore gambling which is corrupting the youth in Canada. And like the American counterparts they seem to feel they are best at determining how and where the public should spend their time and money. Since criminal law is a Federal matter and the Canadian Federal Government indicated that offshore gambling is hardly a priority, the Ontario Liberals chose to try and stop advertising, something they can control. In Ontario offshore poker and sportsbook ads appear on TV, radio, and in CFL stadiums and NHL arena. Of course similar ads appear for the lotteries and casinos of the province which the government heartily endorses and in fact those ads show far younger actors "winning the big one but that's another issue. The bill was pioneered by Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal and picked up by Gerry Phillips, the Minister of Government Services. Without going into the merits of this bill, and the reasons why it is so ludicrous I thought it would be prudent to take a close look at the government in question and see if they have earned the right to tell businesses and Ontarians what is right and wrong and how to spend their money.

The Ontario Liberal party under the leadership of Dalton McGuinty came to power in October of 2003. He swept to a majority government following the Progressive Conservative's long reign. Clearly people felt there was need for a change in the province and Dalton promised a different government making over 100 promises to change the province. When questioned by the opposition and media how he could do this without initiating huge tax increases or large deficits he guaranteed balanced budgets every year while in office and he assured the public "you won't pay a penny more under a Liberal government than you will under a Conservative government." Within the first year he had broken pretty much every promise, did not balance the budget and indeed raised taxes. Plus he initiated a health levy on Ontarians forcing everyone including the poorest in the province to pay more for the public health care. He assured Ontarians this was necessary since the Conservatives lied about the real deficit (they didn't) but that every penny of the health levy would go for health care in the province. It has been uncovered that much of that levy is not going to health care at all and health care wait times in the province are longer than ever. Plus he de-listed several health care procedures which were once covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan such as eye exams, physiotherapy and chiropractic care. In fact in the 3 years since they?ve been in power they have broken more than 2/3 of their election promises and have earned the nickname "fiberals". A Conservative sponsored website has created a nice list of all the broken promises to date at

Fortunately for Ontarians another provincial election is only a year away and the Conservative leader John Tory, is a staunch businessman with a lot of political savvy. The former Rogers chief executive currently trails in polls but he really hasn't done much campaigning yet. Without doubt after McGuinty stumbles through a series of debates and all the broken promises are laid out more clearly to Ontario residents, Tory will lead in the polls and eventually in the votes.

But the question still remains, why is the government trying to pass this bill in the first place? A skeptic may speculate that their real agenda is strictly protectionism for the provincial run lotteries, casinos and video lottery terminals since that's what Jeff Leal's website has clearly stated, but Gerry Phillips insists that the Liberal government's biggest motive for passing the bill is that they are concerned about the vulnerability of the youth in the province and that advertising influences them. And this government wouldn't lie to Ontarians now would they?

Hartley Henderson

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