Ajax Mayor: Casino started slipping away after developers paid $10,000 to dine with Premier

The Mayor of Ajax sheds new light on allegations he made earlier this week in a letter to Ontario's Finance Minister surrounding recently announced plans to relocate gambling in Durham Region from Ajax to Pickering.

Steve Parish wrote to Charles Sousa to lay out his concerns over an arrangement by the provincial government to shut down the casino and quarter-horse racing operation in Ajax in favour of building a new casino and real estate development in nearby Pickering.

That's in spite of the move costing, by some estimates, as much as $250 million in infrastructure upgrades close to the site of the so-called Durham Live project.

Proponents in Ajax argued the better business case was in expanding the current facility.

On Friday, Parish expanded on his allegation that the agreement to swap the location of Durham Region's only casino was done in 'secrecy.'

He contends that the reason the resort is being built in Pickering traces back to a big-ticket dinner hosted by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne in March of 2015.

The Globe and Mail reported that the event was attended by 9 people, including developers Steve and Peter Apostolopoulos -- whose firm, Pickering Developments, is behind the Durham Live proposal.

Records show they each paid $10,000 for a plate and a seat at the table.

The event was part of a larger fiasco surrounding so-called 'cash-for-access' schemes that landed the Ontario and Federal Liberals in hot water.

"Many of us ... were extremely repulsed by the fact that people with really, really deep pockets could get special access to key people like Prime Ministers and Premiers," Parish says.

He believes that this event is the point at which Ajax Downs started slipping away.

The Mayor argues it was weeks later that the provincial government went incommunicado with his office.

Shortly after that, Parish says, Liberal MPP's lobbied the Transportation Minister for highway improvements near the Pickering site.

"We haven't met (with the Finance Minister) in the last 3 years ... so I can connect the dots as well as anybody else," Parish says.

The Mayor has vowed to keep fighting the Durham Live proposal at every turn.

He argues it would spell the loss of an estimated $7 million in annual revenue to the Town of Ajax, along with hundreds of jobs connected to the horse racing track.

Officials with Pickering Developments were not immediately available to comment.

Parish also announced on Friday that he will not seek to keep his job in the Mayor's office.

However, he would not rule out a future challenge to lead Durham's regional government.