Gaming grant freeze lifted, but no assurance groups will get their money

Minister of Housing and Social Development Rich Coleman has announced that the freeze on $159 million in gambling revenues has been lifted, and direct access grants are being re-instated.

The announcement was made yesterday (August 19) by the minister on CHNL, a Kamloops radio station, but was not accompanied by any news releases from the ministry. However, a ministry rep has confirmed to the Straight that the freeze has been lifted, and that groups will be informed in writing within two weeks regarding the status of their requests.

According to the Canadian Press, some groups may not receive the full amount of funding requested, and others may not receive any funding at all.

The announcement comes just two days after the NDP hosted a news conference with representatives from MusicFest Vancouver, Le Centre Culturel Francophone de Vancouver, and the Vancouver International Children's Festival decrying the government's handling of the freeze.

Some groups have threatened legal action should the government fail to honour three-year funding commitments made last year, but Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, discouraged such talk for the moment.

"It's premature to both try and do shaming or issue threats," he said. "I don't think it's the time for that. There may be a time for that [in the future], I don't know."

Alibhai did note that the government's review of the gaming grants was largely conducted in the dark. "I'm wondering what sort of criteria they've been using for that," he said. "It seems to me they're certainly reassessing or have reassessed applications”¦.Our position is that the way in which it was handled was not transparent enough. There should have been more consultation. It was pretty abrupt, it took too many people by surprise. Of course there'll be an emotional reaction to it and panic, and it's just not an effective way to make that sort of announcement. But thankfully it's been unfrozen and now we just have to see."

The Straight has requested an interview with Coleman and is awaiting a response.