Town's stake in debate greater than city's

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The double standard is too blatant to miss, even if its originator appears oblivious: The mayor of Kingston is crying foul because external forces have commissioned a poll and hired a Toronto lobbyist to intervene in the debate on bringing a casino to his city.

Let’s rewind the tape, in case you missed that.

Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen wants the casino question resolved by “a decision made by Kingstonians” - even though he says the city doesn’t need to hold a referendum to learn what decision they prefer – and he decries outside interference in what he considers a local debate, despite the fact the “external forces” in question happen to be two small municipalities that will lose their casino if Kingston is awarded one.

A recent poll by the Thousand Islands Accommodation Partners indicated that 60 per cent of Kingstonians did not want a casino and 78 per cent wanted a referendum to settle the issue. Kingston’s mayor neatly deflects his own residents’ opinions, however, by pointing instead to the “vested interest” of the group that ordered the survey – a coalition of Gananoque and area business owners – as if that somehow invalidates the local responses to a professionally conducted poll.

While alluding to the businesses’ pecuniary interest in keeping the Gananoque casino, the mayor also, curiously, marginalizes their participation by casting them as peripheral to the discussion. On one hand, he concedes the group has skin in the game; on the other, he infers they don’t belong in the debate. So which is it?

The new gaming zone rules in Ontario mean that a casino in Kingston will only come at the expense of the one in Gananoque, since the municipalities share a zone that can host only one casino. At stake for the co-hosting municipalities of Gananoque and the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands is the loss of a facility that contributes about $1 million a year each in revenues (that represents about 12 per cent of the budget, in the township’s case) and is the area’s largest employer.

The town stands to lose something tangible it has and needs while the city hopes to gain something it wants. Arguably, that gives Gananoque an even greater stake in the debate than Kingston.

Implying that Kingston has been wronged by Gananoque’s interjection into the casino debate is as audacious as a bully complaining he skinned his knuckles while punching his smaller victim in the teeth.

- Derek Gordanier, Managing Editor

@RTEditorDerek on Twitter



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