Province should leave Hamilton casino decisions to the city: Wynne

New premier Kathleen Wynne talked casinos, horse racing and teachers with local reporters Thursday.
Kathleen Wynne was sworn in as Ontario's premier Feb. 11. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Ontario's new premier says the province needs to stay out of casino talks and let municipalities like Hamilton make decisions for themselves.

"It's a contentious issue," said premier Kathleen Wynne on a conference call with local reporters Thursday afternoon. "Differences of opinion are evident in governments and in communities, and that's what makes it contentious."

"My position on casinos is we're going to allow municipalities — within the provincial framework — to decide whether or not they want a casino and where it will be located," she said. "We'll be very clear that all the [provincial] rules will have to be followed in terms of zoning and other decisions."

Those provincial rules Wynne mentioned have to do with the Greenbelt Act to protect the environment that affects complexes like Flamboro Downs. As it stands, that location isn't zoned for a full-out entertainment complex.

Wynne also talked at length about the horse racing industry.

"My vision of the horse racing industry is that it would be sustainable and that in order for it to be sustainable it has to be smaller, so I think that's the transition we need to make right now," she said.  "But we need to be conscious that we need to keep this industry in shape going forward."

As for her new position as agricultural minister, Wynne said she's confident she can strike a balance between being minister and leading the province.

Wynne said her responsibilities as agricultural minister and premier go hand in hand, considering she's managing the second-largest industry in the province.

"We need to make it a competitive industry in Ontario," she said. "I see it as my general role as premier that we work on the creation of jobs."

When it came to poverty reduction, Wynne also said there must be a conversation that happens in conjunction with a review of the minimum wage. "I always said minimum wage needs to be looked at in terms of a benchmark or a systematic measurement so that's something I'll be talking to Ted McMeekin, [new minister for community and social services] about."

Wynne spoke generally about her negotiations with educators, after Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation president Ken Coran told CBC's Metro Morning listeners Thursday that he needs a "guarantee" that members will negotiate their own contracts in order to bring extra curricular activities back. "I'm not interested in contracts," Wynne said. "Going forward, we need to have negotiated settlements. That's what I'm going for."

Wynne did not comment on the contracts that were recently imposed on education workers by the McGuinty government.