In a strongly worded joint statement, the Alliance for Arts and Culture and the B.C. Association of Charitable Gaming are calling on Premier-designate Christy Clark to replace Rich Coleman as minister responsible for gaming. The organizations also accuse the government of penalizing charities for speaking up against the Paragon Gaming casino application currently being considered by the City of Vancouver.
The news release gives a number of reasons why Clark should remove Coleman from the file, alleging: a crisis in public confidence in the integrity of the gaming industry; the loss of confidence of the charitable and non-profit sector in Minister Coleman’s leadership; the failure or refusal of Coleman to meet with the charitable sector to address the impact of cuts to gaming grants; political interference in the administration of gaming grants through the manipulation of eligibility criteria; intimidation of individuals and organizations that challenge the granting system; and the ongoing funding crisis in the charitable sector, in which they say close to 1,500 non-profits may close within months.
The organizations also allege that, in February 2011, individuals close to the BCACG were warned by unnamed people in the provincial government that challenging the Paragon Gaming casino application could result in charities being hurt. The organizations say that on March 3, the B.C. Persons with AIDS Society received news of an unexpected cut of $50,000 in its gaming grant, which had been stable for six years.
“The implication is clear,” reads the release, which adds: “As Minister Coleman’s strong personal attack on Inspector Barry Baxter, head of the RCMP Proceeds of Crime Unit demonstrates, there is a price for speaking up.” In January 2011, Baxter said B.C. casinos were routinely failing to flag large cash transactions as suspicious.
“It is deeply unhealthy that organizations not only feel the financial pressure, but are silenced by fear of the minister responsible,” Susan Marsden, executive director of the BCACG, said in the release. Amir Ali Alibhai, executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, added: “We note that Premier-designate Christy Clark has called for a comprehensive review of gaming policy in B.C., an initiative we strongly support.”¦ We do not have confidence that this review can be adequately conducted while Minister Coleman controls the portfolio.”
The Straight has submitted an interview request to Coleman.