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Report on grants delayed

Jan 04 2012
Premier Christy Clark: Commissioned independent review in mid-2011. (Dec. 2011) 

Premier Christy Clark: Commissioned independent review in mid-2011. (Dec. 2011)

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford, timescolonist.com

The B.C. government has reneged on a promise to release a report into gaming grants within 60 days.

Premier Christy Clark had commissioned the independent review in mid-2011 to look into the future of millions of dollars in gaming grants for thousands of charities and non-profit groups.

The report was finished Oct. 31 and the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development issued a statement promising "government will release the report, in full, within the next 60 days - once it has had an opportunity to thoroughly review the document and determine next steps based on the options provided."

But that didn't happen.

"It was initially anticipated that we would release the report and announce next steps within a 60-day period," the ministry said in a statement to the Times Colonist.

"But these are important decisions and additional work is required to thoroughly review the report and determine next steps based on options provided."

The new target date is "early in the new year," the ministry said. Minister Ida Chong was not available for an interview.

The government's handling of gaming grants for charities and non-profits has been a source of considerable criticism in recent years.

More than 6,000 charities and non-profit groups - from school parent advisory councils to Special Olympics teams, minor hockey organizations and children's arts programs - rely on the annual grant money as part of their operating budgets.

The province faced a backlash from charities when it cut funding from $156 million in 2008-2009 to $120 million in 2009-2010. It also significantly altered eligibility criteria, eliminated funding for environmental groups and adult arts and sports organizations, and ended three-year funding deals that gave non-profits financial stability.

Clark made restoring gaming grants part of her campaign for leadership of the Liberal party, which she won in February 2010. She boosted funding to $135 million in late 20102011, but it reverted to $120 million this year.

Clark appointed former Kwantlen Polytechnic University president Skip Triplett to head the review in July.

Triplett held 19 community forums, listened to 300 presentations from community groups and received 500 written submissions.

He said Monday some of the options in his report concerned multiple ministries and it's possible, with the Christmas holidays, that the government needed more time to talk to stakeholders.

"I'm not particularly concerned about it," said Triplett.

Triplett "made a sincere effort," and had a good grasp of the situation, said NDP critic Shane Simpson.

"Release the report and let's have a conversation about what Mr. Triplett has found," said Simpson, who argues the public should have a chance to discuss Triplett's findings before the Feb. 21 provincial budget.

In the meantime, charities and non-profits continue to be devalued by a government that won't tell them what's going on, said Simpson.

"I had hoped the premier had learned a lesson that was reflected in Mr. Triplett's work, but that doesn't appear to be the case."

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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