Last spring, while gathered around the kitchen table, the Lynett sisters decided they needed to act. They felt they could not allow a casino to be built on Toronto’s waterfront.
“I was shocked to hear from my councillor that plans for a casino down on the waterfront were going through,” Maureen Lynett says. “Somebody had to do something.”
Lynett enlisted the help of her sister Sheila and her cousin Peggy Calvert. Political activists they were not but they believed they could make a difference.
We are not anti-gambling. … We are against casinos.
Their fight is against the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s (OLG) modernization plan, which involves the establishment of a mega casino in the Greater Toronto Area. Lynett’s No Casino Toronto campaign seeks to maintain the province’s status quo in gambling, she says.
“We are not anti-gambling. We are fine with the way things are right now,” Calvert says. “We are against casinos.”
No Casino Toronto has begun an online anti-casino petition and letter-writing campaign aimed at Toronto city councillors.
“A casino would be devastating to local business,” Maureen Lynett says. “Casinos are designed to keep people in so customers don’t go out to other restaurants or stores.”
The impact of the OLG’s modernization plan on horse racing in the province also has them concerned, they say.
“They’re closing the slots at the race tracks on March 31,” Sheila Lynett says. “It’s going to destroy horse racing and that will have a huge impact on rural communities.”
As leaders in a grassroots movement, the trio understands the challenge they face, Maureen Lynett says.
“We know it’s sort of like David versus Goliath,” she says. “But we have seen small groups succeed before.”
In 1997, Maureen Lynett was part of the group that helped end prohibition in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood.
“Just look at the area now,” Sheila Lynett says. “It is a growing, vibrant community.”
Grassroots movements are successful when they deploy a range of strategies, says Nelson Wiseman, political science professor at the University of Toronto.
“A variety of tactics aimed at pushing the right political levers are necessary,” he says. “In this case, spending time pushing the MP’s probably wouldn’t be effective, but talking to MPP’s might.”