Gaming grant extension receives mixed reviews
A pledge to keep $15 million in the provincial kitty for gaming grants for non-profit community groups is being called a small step by Tri-City arts and cultural leaders.
Officials say while they were pleased with Premier Christy Clark’s announcement Wednesday at the Port Moody Arts Centre that her government will reinstate funding eligibility for adult arts and sports groups, environmental organizations and animal welfare agencies, they were also hoping for more gaming cash to be available after years of cuts to the sector.
“It’s not as good as it could have been,” said Jane Matthews, executive director of the PoMo Arts Centre Society, which runs the St. Johns Street facility and produces the PoMo Festival of the Arts and Wearable Arts Awards. “But I think that we have to be realistic in that everyone is still feeling the recession.”
During the news conference, attended by representatives of many Tri-City non-profit groups that rely on gaming grants for their programs, Clark said the arts are a “priority” for her government and said earlier decisions by the BC Liberal government to slash arts funding were “a mistake.”
Still, she said upcoming budgets will be tough.
“The fact is, we’re not going to have tons of contingency space available in future years and if we don’t bake this into the budget — if we don’t make it part of our long-term planning — no arts group and no community group could ever be guaranteed that it would be there. It’s certainty for groups,” she said.
Clark made her comments the same day the government agreed on a repayment schedule with the federal government for $1.6 billion in harmonized sales tax transition funding.
Her announcement also came after a review of the community gaming grants system last year by Skip Triplett, a former Coquitlam resident and former Kwantlen University president.
Helen Daniels, executive director of ArtsConnect, the Tri-Cities’ arts council, said she is pleased with the eligibility restoration but she’s concerned about how the gaming grants will be distributed now that the pot is open for more groups to apply.