Anti-casino advocates in Hamilton are celebrating former OLG chairman Paul Godfrey's ousting as a win to finally put a stake in the heart of a downtown casino.
"I want to commend Queen's Park for the aggressive stand it has taken against OLG's terminated chair and members of the board," said Coun. Sam Merulla, one of the most vocal anti-casino voices on city council. "The OLG's business plan of cannibalizing Ontarians and particularly Hamiltonians with a downtown casino is a social threat that would be a catastrophic colossal screw up of epic proportions."
Godfrey was fired at a meeting on Thursday afternoon, according to a statement from Finance Minister Charles Sousa. The statement gave no reason for Godfrey's dismissal, and the OLG board has also reportedly resigned. Requests to the minister's office for clarification on the issue were not returned Tuesday.
Godfrey told a news conference he wasn't given a reason for his firing. Premier Kathleen Wynne told him the government was "going in a different direction," he said.
"I haven't been give any reason for this decision, nor do I think there's a particularly good one," he said.
Godfrey, who has held the job since February, 2010, speculated there just wasn't the proper chemistry between him and the premier.
The secretary of the cabinet, Peter Wallace, is taking over as interim chairman.
Graham Crawford, a vocal member of Hamiton's No Downtown Casino movement, says he feels the change came because Wynne's approach differs from her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty.
'Nothing changes in terms of our game plan.' —P.J. Mercanti, Rockhammer group
"Godfrey was asked to generate a bunch more money for the government by Dalton McGuinty. Godfrey's plan might have done that in the short term, but at what social cost?" Crawford asked.
"You get your money for a few years, and then what? Dalton was desperate for cash so he didn't have to raise taxes. He, in my view, put his moral blinders on and was willing to accept increased social costs to save his government."
Crawford told CBC Hamilton he was impressed with Wynne's stance on the issue. "This was a very difficult decision, but she made it," he said. "Then implemented it and is taking next steps. That's noteworthy."
Government sources told CBC Queens Park reporter Mike Crawley that Godfrey was fired because he wanted to give Toronto a better deal for hosting a casino than other municipalities — something the Premier has said she is dead set against.
"The fairest way forward is to make sure there is one formula," Wynne said at a press conference.
According to the province, under that new formula, places like Windsor and Niagara Falls would receive more funding than they have previously, while Toronto would receive just over $50 million a year from the Casino coffers — which is about half of what Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wanted.
P.J. Mercanti, one of the principals of the Rockhammer Casino consortium, told CBC Hamilton that his group still intends to go ahead with their casino proposal for Hamilton, regardless of changes at the OLG.
"Nothing changes in terms of our game plan," Mercanti, the president of Carmens Group said. He says Rockhammer is still waiting for the request for qualification process to get underway, and hopes the group will be accepted for the request for proposal process.
Rockhammer announced it's proposal for a $200-million entertainment complex that included a casino in downtown Hamilton back in February.
"We'll be ready to respond no matter what happens going forward," Mercanti said.