Gaming grant criteria opens up

While the B.C. Liberal government has opened the criteria for gaming grants the pot of gold hasn't increased

The B.C. Liberal government has increased the eligibility criteria for gaming grants to non-profit organizations.

These changes will reinstate potential funding for adult arts and sports organizations, environmental groups and animal-welfare agencies, as well as increase support for groups that have experienced funding reductions in the past three years.

Last year, Premier Christy Clark promised to add $15 million to the grants stemming from British Columbia’s gambling proceeds for non-profit organizations that qualify.

This brought the annual gaming funding up to $135 million, although it didn’t restore the grant budget to its 2008 peak of $156 million.

Clark then appointed Skip Triplett to consult with non-profit groups across the province and recommend changes to how gaming funds are distributed in B.C.

There were 16 key recommendations in Triplett’s report, which can be downloaded at www.communitygaminggrantreview.gov.bc.ca/.

A release from Victoria indicates the reinstated groups will receive a total of $8 million, with a special intake of applications being accepted from Jan. 16 to Feb. 13 to ensure these groups are eligible for funding this fiscal year.

Of the $8 million for reinstated groups, $6 million will be allocated for adult arts, culture and sport, with the remaining $2 million slated for environmental organizations.

Parkside Art Gallery president Patsy Granberg says she will “certainly be investigating” the return of adult arts and culture funding lost under previous gaming grant changes.

“We have been seeking funding and I have had a goal to see Parkside Art Gallery more fully utilized for a long time. I’m digging between fundraising and grants to try to find enough money to [do that].”

Patricia Spencer sits on various local environmental group boards, including the South Cariboo Sustainability Committee and Lower Bridge Creek Watershed Stewardship Society, neither of which previously had any gaming grants, she says.

“I’m happy to hear some of this grant money will be restored; $2 million isn’t much, but it’s something.”

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says there will likely be more groups applying for the total kitty of $135 million.

“It will be difficult for the [decision-makers] and, hopefully, those people who need it the most will get the first consideration.”

Cariboo-Chilcotin NDP candidate Charlie Wyse says it’s just a re-announcement of last year’s $15 million gaming grant boost, with no new funding allocated, yet more competing groups.

“It still leaves us $21 million short of 2008 levels, and those are just the straight goods.

“It leaves the community groups also facing a lack of commitment to restoring opportunities for multi-year funding.”

These latest actions don’t reflect the promises Clark made, he explains.

“When she made the announcement of the $15 million about a year ago, she had indicated that was the first piece of the puzzle, and at the end of this review, we’d likely see a bigger financial commitment to charities out there.”

The release indicates the remaining $7 million of the fiscal funding increase targets those groups that have experienced reductions during the past three years.

Barnett says some organizations that had been cut back previously did already apply for, and receive, some top-up funding since last March.

She adds it is unfortunate that funding levels can’t be fully returned to 2008 levels, but it can’t be helped.

“Unfortunately health care and education is taking everything we got, and nobody wants to pay more taxes.”