Community group representatives speak with B.C. Community Gaming Grant Review leader Skip Triplett via video-conference on Aug. 17

Consistent, stable, multi-year gaming grant funding needed, especially in remote rural community like ours

B.C. Community Gaming Grant review comes to Revelstoke via video conference

Money from B.C. gaming grants support the core mission of many local arts, culture and sports organizations, paying for coaches, administrators and funding all types of community programs. So when the program was unexpectedly cut by the provincial government in 2009, an outcry was not far behind.

The provincial Community Gaming Grant Review came to Revelstoke on Aug. 17 in the form of a video conference.

In July, Skip Triplett was appointed by premier Christy Clark to lead a review that will look into the way that revenues from gambling grants are allocated in the province.

Big cuts cuts to the grants in 2009 caused an uproar across the province and in Revelstoke after many local arts, culture, sport and social services organizations had to radically revamp their plans after their funding was radically tweaked or yanked out from under them. Many protested the changes were last-minute and affected ongoing programs and commitments.

Triplett is leading the independent review. He’s a consultant who is a former president of Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Eight representatives from local arts, community service and sports organizations told Triplett they needed consistent, stable, predictable, multi-year funding.

Gary Pendergast represented the Revelstoke Arts Council, where he works as a coordinator, and the B.C. Interior Forestry Museum, where he serves as treasurer. Both organizations were deeply impacted by the cuts, Pendergast said. He emphasized that stable funding was needed.

“The funds completely cut out everything that we had planned. It was a $12,000 grant, and we went from that to zero,” Pendergast said of its effect of the 2009 cuts on the arts council. He added the cuts had been “devastating” to the forestry museum. The funding allowed them to hire an executive director, who then worked to secure additional funding.

Cathy Girling is a community development program manager with Community Connections Revelstoke. She said stability was needed in the program, and that the uncertainty and paperwork associated with annual applications led to issues.

“Consistent, multi-year funding would allow us to plan and implement programs and carry them on in a very consistent way,” Girling said. “At this point, we’re never sure from one year to the next whether we would be able to deliver the programs that we have designed and we’re constantly re-jigging those, again using staff time that would be better spent on providing services.”

Girling said this need was especially acute in isolated, rural communities like Revelstoke. In the Lower Mainland, there may be many qualified specialists available to take a short-term contract at a social services organization there.  “People won’t move here for a position that lasts for 10 months,” she said.

Revelstoke-based Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) executive director Ian Tomm echoed this sentiment. Staff positions with the CAC in Revelstoke are often highly technical and specialized. Being able to offer multi-year positions would help attract top candidates. “We are particularly interested in multi-year funding,” Tomm said.

It looks hopeful their requests will lead to success. Triplett said that in past discussions with politicians and ministry staff, they had expressed interest in this direction. “They’re very interested in multi-year funding,” he told the teleconference participants.

At the Revelstoke meeting, there was less of a clear consensus on how the money should be divided amongst various sectors. The pros and cons of dividing by population or sector were debated, but attendees expressed mixed views. In 2009, grants for certain types of groups were eliminated, including animal welfare, adult arts, adult sports and environment. It is possible some of these sectors could be reinstated.

Girling did note that an umbrella social services organization like Community Connections Revelstoke were hindered by rules that placed a limit on the total amount of money a particular organization could get. She said this could lead to unnecessary bureaucracy if organizations had to split in order to get around these restrictions.

Gaming generates about $1 billion in revenues annually for the B.C. government. Currently, about $120 million of that is allocated to charities and non-profit organizations through Community Gaming Grants.

Triplett is conducting conferences and teleconferences across B.C. His review is due Oct. 31, 2011.