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OLC - The Future - My Perspective

Saturday, July 05, 2014   by: Mac Headrick

On a regular basis the topic of the OLG (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp) makes the local news. Recently the OLG Board of Directors met locally. The OLG is a significant employer in our city. In today’s column I will share my thoughts on the future of this enterprise and the impact it will have on our city. 

Politically Sault Ste Marie is well positioned to deal with the transformation of the gaming industry in Ontario. I realize the past Conservative leader Tim Hudak has been beaten up (in the court of public opinion) enough. If Ontario had elected a Conservative majority, I believe the head office of the OLG would have been consolidated to Toronto. We have a Liberal majority government with a sitting member who happens to a cabinet minister. This is as good as it gets. 

I appreciate the approach our Mayor Debbie Amaroso has now adopted in regards to the future of the OLG. In the past the Mayor’s focus was on specific job numbers and the definition of headquarters. Now it appears the Mayor has accepted change is coming. The emphasis is on how Sault Ste Marie can contribute to the success of the OLG. Fear has been replaced by hope. 

I have always questioned the debate on the location of the OLG headquarters. To me the answer is obvious. How many board members are from Sault Ste Marie … answer, one. Where are the board meetings held … answer, Toronto. Apparently they are going to hold one board meeting annually in Sault Ste Marie. Whenever a senior manager makes an announcement they are in Toronto or fly to our city. The bottom line is the headquarters of the OLG is located in Toronto. This is not a negative observation but a fact. 

The OLC Board Chair, Philip Olsson, stated locally on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 the OLG will “shrink” to fewer than 1,000 employees who will be in supervisory roles and services. How much more clear can he be? There will be public sector job loss. I do not mean to imply that there won’t be an overall number of jobs created. According to the OLG’s business review they believe a further 2,300 net new jobs will be created in their industry. In addition there is the potential for a further 4,000 positions in the hotel, restaurant, entertainment and retail centers associated with gaming. 

Relative to the 4,000 associated jobs they most likely be created in large urban centers, near casinos. Hopefully Sault Ste Marie can access some of the 2,300 positions associated with the modernization process. Our local MPP David Orazietti has been relentless in promoting the significant role the Sault plays in the success of the OLG. At the same time David keeps reminding the powers to be how critical the OLG presence is to the local economy. 

The future of the OLG means less government employees. The private sector will play a far more significant role. I am not sure what this means to the local economy. You have  the wages and benefits of the present OLG employees. What is the corresponding number of private sector jobs needed to equal or better the impact if some of the above positions are eliminated through modernization? The OLG chair stated that modernization will mean more local jobs. I cannot see him making this announcement if he wasn’t confident it will become a reality. The recent provincial election put the RFPs (request for proposals) on hold. Mayor Amaroso anticipates some announcement on these in the near future.  

As I see it, our local politicians have done everything in their power to see that the OLG succeeds locally. The head office will continue to be in Toronto. Kathleen Wynne has a very difficult path ahead of her relative to the economy. Tough decisions will have to be made. I trust in her humanity and commitment to Sault Ste Marie. The only thing we can do now is wait. Oh, a little prayer might also be a good idea.   

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