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Non-profit groups struggle despite B.C. grant increase

Jan 12 2012

B.C.'s non-profit organizations say they will continue to struggle financially, despite Premier Christy Clark's announcement Wednesday that the government will boost gaming grant funding by $15 million.

The provincial government increased annual funding to $135 million from $120 million and reversed its decision in 2009 to make certain groups ineligible for B.C. gaming revenue.

Non-profit organizations can apply for the new funding immediately, Clark said from Port Moody, where she made the announcement.

The money will allow service groups get back to "doing what they do best, which is knitting their communities together," she said.

That message, however, was dampened by representatives of the struggling non-profits, who say the announcement did not restore funding to the

$156 million available in 2008.

Communities will continue to suffer until service groups receive a fixed portion of gaming revenue, as was outlined in the original 1999 agreement, said Susan Marsden, president of the B.C. Association of Charitable Gaming.

"I'm very disappointed," she said. "How can you reinstate everybody to the funding they had with $156 million when you're only giving $135 million?"

Government will reinstate funding eligibility for adult arts and sports organizations, as well as environmental and animal welfare agencies. But that just means more groups are applying for less money than they had in 2008, Marsden said.

Clark's changes come from the 16 options outlined in a review conducted by Skip Triplett, former president of Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

He heard from 1,700 residents while travelling the province since last summer.

Clark will also attempt to streamline the application process and possibly return to multi-year funding models.

NDP critic Shane Simpson wants the return of three-year funding agreements that were in place before 2009, instead of the one-year agreements across the board.

"It's hard to be fiscally responsible if you don't know what your budget is going to look like until it's right on top of you," said Simpson.

Victoria theatre groups say accrued debt in the past three years is equivalent to the amount of funding they would have received under the 2008 levels.

Their slashed budgets also resulted in reduced staff and cuts to programming, according to Ian Case, manager of Intrepid Theatre.

"It's unfortunate we can't get back to 2008-09 funding levels, but it sounds like Premier Clark has made a commitment to move toward that," he said.

Grant funding has not kept up with the growth of the province's gambling revenues, even with Wednesday's announcement, according to the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union.

Funding dropped by 41 per cent since 2001-02, the union has calculated.


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