When Doug Ford was elected in June of 2018, many expected changes to how the provincial government overseas sport. After all, a new government, headed by a new party signals a new direction. And after 14+ years of a Liberal-led government, the path the new one is taking has our attention.
The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS)
Again, our good ole friends at Wikipedia do a great job of explaining what the MTCS is in charge of if the name didn’t give it away.
From Liberal Leadership to Jones & Tibollo
Soon after Ford was elected, the cabinet was announced. MPP Sylvia Jones would in charge of MTCS. My oh my. How quickly did that change though? Just a few months into the post, it was announced that Michael Tibollo would take over for Jones as the MTCS. There was much hoopla over the move, which you can read about here.
P.S. Who knew that being in charge of sport in Ontario is a demotion? We think it’s a blessing! What we will say though is, why has this position changed hands 4 times since Michael Coteau (2014 – 2016) & Eleanor McMahon’s (2016 – 2018) stable leadership?
This article doesn’t get into that. Why should we? We pledge to not be partisan in this article. Instead, we aspire to look at what this government is doing and how it plans to manage sport different from the last one.
Recent News from the MTCS
From a quick search of the net, we found this movement from the Ministry since Tibollo’s take over:
Here’s what we’ve found which relate directly to sport:
- A press release to celebrate Ontario a Special Hockey Day;
- Possible use of the CNE grounds for sport purpose when it’s re-worked;
- A fight against paying Ontario Hockey League (OHL) players; and
- Acceptance of applications for the Sport Hosting Program in December 2018.
We’re sure there’s more. But let’s get to the biggest and most newsworthy story of all: last week’s 382-page budget release. The Conservative party may deny it, but the new government has, so far, shown that amateur it is not their main priority. However, that’s not to say they ignore it. For instance, they’ve shown support for amateur sport funding programs put in place by their predecessors such as the Ontario Trillium Fund and the Sport Hosting Program. The latter is a direct aim of Ontario’s 2016 Game ON plan for sport.
Below, we make a bunch of key points that warrant chatter. Page 219 of the budget is where the discussion around sport begins.
1. They want a new plan
Based on the language spelled out in the budget around this, it looks like Ford’s government wants to replace Game ON. Or at least introduce a renewed version of it. What they do say to begin the discussion around sport is that they want Ontario to be a premier place to play sports. And why not? Ontario has all the resources to be!
However, the language on the top of page 220 is extremely vague. There’s a call to action for a new plan to be made so it can only be assumed that the new government wants a new plan. Although what that looks like exactly is very unclear based on the two short paragraphs dedicated to it.
To prove its vagueness, here’s a summary of what the call to action spells out:
- Wants Ontario be a premier place to play sports.
- Desire to work on a new sports action plan with:
- Sports organizations
- Education sector
- Indigenous communities
- Other organizations
If we could put the eye-popping emoji, we would. What does this mean? Who, what, where, when, and why?
2. More fighting!
This is the most shocking part of the budget as it pertains to sport. Especially because the previous government rarely touched upon this, if not to improve the safety of participants and the socialization of youth.
This government dedicated way more words on getting loose on rules around fighting sports. They say the current rules for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), boxing and kickboxing are “out of date” and “unsafe” (p. 220).
- What are the current rules?
- What aspects of the rules do they want to change? Is it ridding of it altogether?
- How do those rules present safety concerns?
- Who said that these rules are a barrier for businesses?
- Also, who said these rules are a barrier for participants?
- Does this change affect children, and if so, how?
- Who was consulted on for this?
- Did any of the big combat fighting organizations influence the government on this one?
We are confused. How can you say you want to make sport safe and then promote combat sport. It just doesn’t make sense as currently written. We just want to know more information.
3. Claims of economic benefit
Furthermore, the new budget pledges to attract more elite fighting competitions to Ontario and claims that it will really benefit our economy. But how? We’ll save commentary on this one for our upcoming article that looks at fighting sports. But it’s good to point out that the budget says that Ontario is open for more fighting ya’ll.
4. Bring on the gambling in sport
Again, we’d like to dedicate a future discussion to the issue of gambling in sport. But for the purposes of this article, we want to highlight that the budget makes room to ask the Federal government to release sanctions on the people of Ontario on gambling on single-game sport events.
They write, “The people of Ontario spend approximately $110 million per year on these sorts of illegal wagers.” Without a source for that stat, they then claim revenue can be made on this. So I guess this one’s a wait and see game. Let’s see if the Federal government responds to the budget’s call for action.
It’d be interesting to see if increased sport gambling was something explored by the previous government. If we can get Michael Coteau to comment, that’d be great. And if not, why not?
5. Sport versus Sports
Last, but not least, because we are a SPORT Management website, we’d be remiss not to mention that this government spells sport with an added s. Why? We have no idea. The previous government called it SPORT. We have an article coming out about this very subject in the next few days. For example, they write (1) Sports organizations; (2) Sports action plan; and (3) Sports system.
This article barely scratches the surface for Ontario’s future in sport. At least the short-term future. This government is in power for at least 3 more years. That means the Conservative party has the power to make and enforce rules in this province within their rights. Since they have the gold ($$$) for the next 3+ years, Doug Ford and his party get to say what share of the money pot sport will get. And how much of their portion will to amateur sport versus other sport initiatives is a big question mark. Those are huge questions that Ontario’s budget did not help us answer. Yet it gave us a glimpse into the shifting focus of this government versus the last.