Christy Clark adds $15 million to gambling grants, but eligibility remains unchanged
Arts organizations hoping for changes to gambling grant eligibility rules before the upcoming May 31 deadline for applications were offered little hope today by Premier Christy Clark.
At a news conference today held at West Side Family Place in Point Grey, Clark made good on her campaign promise to add $15 million to community gambling grants. But Clark confirmed that only groups currently eligible for the grants would be benefiting from the boost.
“We are looking at changes to it [eligibility], but we just haven’t had time to do that as of today,” Clark said. “We wanted to move as quickly as we could for that infusion of $15 million and find it right away.”
Clark said she would be moving to set up a commission to review the governance and funding formula for gaming grants, but conceded the process would take months.
“The commission will be reviewing the eligibility. That will be part of their task,” she said. “It will be within the year—we hope that they’ll be able to report out to cabinet early in the fall.”
Clark added that the additional funding announced today is “not the total solution, but it’s the first step in getting there.”¦Unfortunately it wasn’t able to come as quickly as all of the groups would have liked.”
In March 2010, the province announced that adult arts and culture, adult sports, environmental groups, and school playgrounds would not be eligible for gambling grants in 2010–11. The new eligibility criteria followed decisions in August 2009 that only a limited number of arts and culture groups would be funded. That year, gaming grants were also cut by $39 million.
While a number of groups with three-year funding commitments continued to receive their grants, they expired last year, leaving many organizations in a state of financial uncertainty.
Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, warned that a failure to act quickly on the eligibility rules would deepen a growing crisis in the arts community. “As it stands, if the eligibility criteria are not addressed I believe many organizations in the arts around the province are going to either shut down or completely shrink to a place where they can’t do their work anymore,” he told the Straight by phone.
Susan Marsden, president of the B.C. Association of Charitable Gaming, also reacted with disappointment to today’s announcement from Clark.
“It is truly a mystery to me why the arts and culture policy of the previous government is being maintained, the policy of basically cutting out the arts and culture sector,” she said by phone.
Addressing Clark’s so-called "Families First" agenda, she added: “There’s a misconception somehow that adult arts and culture is not about families. People who work in the arts and culture industry have families like everybody else, and children are enriched by arts and culture activities. If their parents are enriched by arts and culture activities, they make better parents. Arts and culture is very much about families. It’s very much about what it means to be human.”