The Ministry of Housing and Social Development has announced it will provide gaming grants for a "limited number of arts and culture activities."
An August 24 news release lists a number of priorities for the 2009/2010 grants. In addition to the limited arts and culture activities, they include: programs that support low income and disabled British Columbians; programs providing food, shelter, and support to at-risk individuals; programs supporting community health services; programs funding nutritional programs in schools for underprivileged children; public safety programs; community education programs such as daycares and preschools; public community facilities; youth and disabled sports; and non-sport youth groups.
The release states: “The province is fully supporting some of the highest priority organizations. Other organizations will receive less funding than they request so that the maximum number of organizations receive support.” Capital project grants, playground grants, and new three-year grants will not be eligible for funding this year.
The phrasing used regarding the arts and culture gaming grants is unlikely to reassure the B.C. arts community, which has been sounding the alarm over the gaming grant freeze for a number of weeks.
On August 19, housing and social development minister Rich Coleman told a Kelowna radio station that the freeze on gaming grants was being lifted, but organizations have yet to receive their funding or any indication of how much they will be receiving this year.
Susan Marsden, president of the B.C. Association of Charitable Gaming, said today's release was cause for concern.
"The one thing that really bothers me”¦is that they seem to be setting priorities, which is something we've been concerned about for a very long time," Marsden told the Straight by phone. "We've had this discussion with the gaming policy enforcement branch for the last three or four years. We're concerned that it's going to be distributed to those charities that the government decides are the flavour of the year."
Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, said his organization is actively trying to find out if any groups have received letters yet from the Ministry of Housing and Social Development.
"We're waiting to hear from people who applied for direct access funds as to whether or not they got them. But it sounds like they're going to not give everyone what they asked, so that they can spread it around," he said.
The Straight contacted a number of arts organizations whose funding applications had been marked as complete, but none whose grants had been frozen had received any correspondence regarding their funding.