The B.C. Liberal government stated today that adult arts and culture will not receive any community gambling grants in 2010-11.
The message came in a "backgrounder" to a Ministry of Housing and Social Development news release about community gambling grants. Adult sports, environmental groups, and school playgrounds will also not receive funding under this program.
Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, told the Straight by phone that 1,000 "clients" used to receive direct-access gambling grants, but about 40 percent lost their money last year. He said about 320 groups receive multiyear grants.
He predicted that hundreds of groups will lose funding this year as a result of today's announcement.
"That money, as far as I can read from the information they've sent out, is for bingo as well as for direct access," Alibhai said. "It's a very large cut."
He noted that the B.C. Arts Council provides grants through a peer-review process, which leaves little opportunity for political interference or manipulation.
Alibhai said that gambling grants, on the other hand, are not handed out in a similar arm's-length manner.
"It can follow a political agenda very easily," he noted.
In the recent provincial budget, Finance Minister Colin Hansen announced $11.5 million in gambling grants would go toward funding arts and culture.
This was mentioned on a chart on page 64 of of the B.C. government's fiscal plan along with other funding for arts and culture. The total, including the gambling grants and the Royal B.C. Museum's $12.2-million operating grant, added up to $46.1 million.
The Alliance for Arts and Culture later stated that total arts and cultural funding was really $32.2 million because the Royal B.C. Museum was never included in the figures in previous years.
In the "backgrounder" to the news release, the ministry stated: "The former Arts, Culture and Sports sector will be focused on youth and split into two sectors."
The two subcategories beneath "arts and culture" are "youth arts and culture" and "fairs, festivals, and museums".
A ministry spokesperson hasn't responded to the Straight 's inquiry whether or not "fairs, festivals, and museums" that receive funding will have to be targeted at youths.
If $11.5 million in gambling grants is not going to adults, this would bring total provincial funding down even more to adult-oriented arts and cultural organizations.
"When we asked about that $11.5 million at the budget lockup, we were told, 'We'll be sending out our criteria very soon'," Alibhai said. "I imagine that this [today's announcement] is what this is."
He noted that the $11.5 million included money from direct-access gambling grants and bingo grants, because the two programs were consolidated. Alibhai said that he didn't know how many groups received money from bingo-gambling grants.
"That information is not available publicly at this moment," he added.
The Alliance for Arts and Culture didn't receive a gambling grant last year, and Alibhai said that it will have to cut its staffing time by 20 percent next year.
The B.C. government will hand out $120 million in community gambling grants to 6,000 community organizations this year. This is up $7 million from last year's total.
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