It is time for our mayor and council to stop advancing the issue of a casino (or euphemistically titled "gaming centre") for Brandon. The people of our community have spoken loudly via plebiscite, on two occasions. They have indicated their overwhelming lack of support for this type of project. It is now time for our elected officials to listen, and to stop their overt campaigning and behind-the-scenes maneuvering.
In the last decade, residents of Brandon have unequivocally declared their lack of support for a casino/gaming centre as outlined by the provincial government. This structure includes First Nations’ ownership.
As someone who worked on the pro-casino "yes" campaign in the last plebiscite, (with people like Rick Borotsik and Drew Caldwell), I was optimistic voters would support this idea.
I believed then, and still do, that the casino could be a cornerstone of a rejuvenated downtown.
I don’t consider a casino to be the sole answer to our downtown’s myriad number of problems. Downtown Brandon may be beyond solutions. I’m not ignorant of the potential for accompanying social issues but, by and large, I believe a downtown casino would be a positive development for the troubled area.
My side lost resoundingly. The "no" side won with a 57 per cent plurality. This loss was the second time in less than a decade in which Brandon voters stated their intentions clearly — no to a casino.
I get the message. It’s time our mayor and council did as well.
The province’s gaming policy appears to be quite simple — gaming outside the Perimeter is the purview of First Nations. Inside the confines of Winnipeg, as with so many other things in Manitoba, the rules are different. In Winnipeg, casinos can be run by the province. They can even be owned by hockey teams’ owners, it appears.
We in Brandon must lack the business acumen required to manage such a complicated venture, it appears. The same principle is true of privately-owned wine stores. But I digress.
If politicians want to know why no one trusts them, then they should simply think about how they are acting in regards to this much-ballyhooed gaming centre. The people have twice been asked if they support a casino. Twice the people of Brandon have said no — emphatically and with substantial majorities.
Does this mean the issue is decided forever? I suggest not. However, as long as the rules remain the same, I see no reason to pursue a gaming centre and potentially exacerbate a divisive religious and racial split in our community. And, quite frankly, there is absolutely no reason to believe yet another plebiscite would yield a different result.
If the province would, in its limited wisdom, change its gaming policy, then I would certainly be supportive of a casino. As it stands, I am not.
Along these same lines, I am very apprehensive about the abrasive manner in which our community is speaking about the Spirit Sands Casino development south of Carberry.
We appear to revel in any setback, real or imagined, as though Brandon will somehow benefit from the misfortune of another. It is almost as if we want them to fail and that’s wrong.
Western Manitoba truly is a family of communities and a community of families. We should wish great success for our friends in Carberry and understand that their success is ours, too.
This council appears lost, confused and solely focused on hitting a home run. Can our city leaders turn their attention to other pressing issues facing our community, perhaps ones with a greater opportunity for success?
» Kerry Auriat is a lifelong Brandon resident and a partner in a local brokerage firm.