Groups propose changes to gaming grants

Williams Lake’s non-profit organizations got a chance to have their voices heard as part of the provincially appointed Community Gaming Grant Review examining the role of government in allocating gaming revenue.

Williams Lake’s non-profit organizations got a chance to have their voices heard as part of the provincially appointed Community Gaming Grant Review examining the role of government in allocating gaming revenue.

On Thursday, British Columbia’s Gaming Grant Review visited the Pioneer Complex where non-profits were invited to express opinions about the gaming grant system as it currently exists and suggest ways to improve it.

According to the official presentation list, there were 13 registered speakers at the review; however, individuals had also been welcomed to make submissions on line, by mail or by fax.

Premier Christy Clark appointed the review earlier this year that included a mandate for reviewer Skip Triplett to examine options for existing legislation, funding formula, criteria/eligibility for community gaming grants, process for applying and receiving grants, the possibility of a multi-year funding formula and any future role of government in gaming grants.

Many of the presenters requested similar changes.

Mary Forbes of the Potato House Society proposed ongoing support for non-profits, more user-friendly application forms, and greater freedom for non-profits in deciding how to use the grant money.

“Let us choose where that money goes in our communities,” she asked. “We would like to make that decision ourselves.”

Irene Willsie of the Contact Women’s Group Society noted several problems with the current system including single-year funding that makes recruiting and maintaining staff difficult, creates a reduction in efficiency, and is labour intensive. Willsie suggested a clearer funding formula, a reinstatement of capital project funding that would help fund organization’s capital improvements, multi-year funding and the development of a regional approval structure.

Bev Pemberton, president of the Station House Gallery — which was impacted by grant funding cuts to adult programming — said she would like to see the previous level of funding, prior to the 2010 cuts made by former premier Gordon Campbell’s government, to community groups restored.

Pemberton noted that the arts contributes to a healthy community and as such should be supported by the provincial government. She asked for a multi-year funding formula, noting that it was a challenge to find people on an annual basis who were skilled at grant writing.

“Completing grant applications is not a easy or quick task and it’s not always easy to find people with the necessary background to complete the task,” she said.

Interviewed during a break in proceedings Triplett said he wasn’t surprised by the points the presenters were making. He said, in general, they were asking for a larger portion of gaming funds to be allocated to community gaming grants; for more stable, multi-year funding; a more user-friendly process; a grant decision-making process that’s arms length from government and a reinstatement of funding to environment, animal welfare and adult arts and sport groups that had previously been cut.  The requests made in Williams Lake were similar to those made by groups in other communities.

Triplett noted that when the guidelines for the review were laid out he was asked by government to provide it with options rather than recommendations. Triplett views options as non-partisan and applicable regardless of who’s the province’s premier or finance minister.

As to whether Triplett would encourage the government to re-establish the amount of gaming grants it had been giving out in years prior to the recent cuts, he said, “It’s hard to say. I don’t know what else the government is grappling with. I want to make the strongest possible case for gaming grants to get equal consideration and make sure they are not what’s left over when the government’s taken what it needs.”

In his address to the audience Triplett suggested three-year rolling grants.

In the latter years under Campbell the types of groups eligible for grants were revised and diminished; the length of community gaming grants was shortened to one year and the overall amount of money disbursed to non-profits across the province declined.

Under Premier Christy Clark, a total of $135 million in community gaming grants was dispersed, a 12.5 per cent increase over the previous year.

Triplett will complete the review and submit his report to government by Oct. 31. Individuals who still wish to give their input can share their views by e-mailing communitygaminggrantreview@gov.bc.ca; mailing PO Box 9827, Stn. Prov. Gov’t, Victoria, B.C., V8W 9W4 or faxing 250-356-2842.

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