Assiniboia Downs ruling has club, province claiming victory
The Manitoba Jockey Club and the provincial government are both claiming to have won a legal fight over the future of Assiniboia Downs.
The jockey club, which currently owns and operates the Winnipeg horse-racing track, took the provincial government to court over a proposal to have the Red River Ex acquire the facility.
The club claimed it was not given ample notice of the province's intentions. It also worried the track may go bankrupt under the oversight of the Ex.
The plan would have meant the $9.5 million that Assiniboia Downs gets from the province every year could have been cut back by as much as $5 million.
In a written decision released Monday, the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench ruled that the province cannot immediately remove the jockey club's funding to run the Downs.
The court ruled that the Assiniboia Downs' funding formula should remain in place for now, meaning the jockey club should continue to receive money to run the facility.
The decision had Jeffrey Rath, a lawyer representing the Manitoba Jockey Club, condemning the province's plans.
Province claims victory
"It was illegal from the outset, it was ill-conceived from the outset, and his attempts to kill horse racing in the province of Manitoba have failed miserably and backfired on the minister and have blown up in his face," Rath said outside court.
However, the court also said the province does have the authority to change legislation that would allow funding for the race tracks to be redirected to other government programs.
Finance Minister Stan Struthers said that was what the government wanted, so he can't believe the jockey club is claiming a victory in this case.
"They've got to be kidding. This totally underscores what I said I was going to do in the budget that I presented," Struthers told reporters.
"It totally underscores our authority to move forward with the plan that we have said we are moving forward on."
Rath said any changes to the legislation will be fought in court.
The club maintains that the province's actions to cut funding is illegal and could force the club into bankruptcy.
The court ruling did not comment on several other allegations the Manitoba Jockey Club made against the government.
Read the Court of Queen's Bench decision regarding Assiniboia Downs below: