Government to work toward multi-year gaming funds

Minister Ida Chong agrees that multi-year gaming funding can help organizations put together long-term budgeting and planning.

Minister Ida Chong agrees that multi-year gaming funding can help organizations put together long-term budgeting and planning.

The minister of community, sport and cultural development told the Tribune that going forward her ministry will work closely with provincial government staff in the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch to determine the most effective way of implementing multi-year funding.

“Government is acting on three recommendations of the Community Gaming Grant Review — more dollars for gaming funds, wider eligibility and consideration of multi-year funding for groups with a sound fiscal track record,” Chong said.

Marg Evans, co-ordinator of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society, a group that tackles a gamut of environmental concerns and projects in the region, learned last week her organization is again eligible to receive funding. That’s good news. For 12 years the society received $25,000 a year and was on a three-year funding term. The longer term ensures the society is expending its energy on activities its mandate demands, rather than spending time on applications.

“It’s important to be accountable. We do our forms at the end of the year and are accountable and every three years had to do the reapplication,” Evans said, adding she learned Wednesday she has to submit an application by mid-February.

When she checked the gaming enforcement branch’s website she learned there’s a special intake for groups that were previously ineligible. The applications must be submitted on line between Jan. 16 and Feb. 13, 2012.  Evans also suggested that three-year funding terms actually save the gaming branch time and money because staff only has to consider applications every three years.

Responding to Chong’s comment about groups with a sound fiscal track record, Evans said gaming must already have a core group of organizations they can trust that have a sound financial history.

“Why not put them all of them on three-year contracts because it’s going to save them administratively and it’s money the gaming branch can put elsewhere?” Evans asks. Last week in an interview with the Tribune, Independent MLA for Cariboo North Bob Simpson criticized the government because the percentage of gaming revenue has gone down, despite an increase in gaming revenue.

Chong answered it is important to remember that o100 per cent of gaming revenues benefits British Columbia province-wide. In 2011/2012 provincial gaming revenues will be just over $1 billion and the province expects to distribute $650 million for social, educational and health programs, $147 million directly for health care, $81 million for local governments, an estimated $11 million will be distributed under Development Assistance Compensation agreements, and $135 million for charities and non-profits through community gaming grants.

“We need to consider that gaming grants do not happen in a vacuum,” Chong said. “They are part of on-going trends in the wider context of demands for provincial government funding.”

For example, she added, consider health care funding, a major concern now and in the future for provincial governments across Canada. A sizable proportion of gaming revenue this year helps support health programs for British Columbia. And it’s a figure that is growing. In 2009/09 funding health care represented 39.5 per cent of the B.C. provincial government budget and in 2011/12 that figure is 41.7 per cent of the budget.

While health-care funding is a major priority, Chong said, the government faces a similar reality in funding the rising cost of public education.

“Meeting the increase demand for education and health care — just to name two provincial government responsibilities because they represent key priorities — compels government to prioritize funding.”