Tomorrow, Fort St. John will host a forum via video conference between representatives from many of those affected organizations and Skip Triplett – a professional consultant with a broad background in board governance and strategic planning – who was appointed by Premier Christy Clark to chair the gaming grant review. The purpose of the review is to examine existing legislation governing community gaming grant funding – including criteria for eligibility, options for multi-year funding, and the process for applying – and come up with options for the future role of the provincial government in community gaming grants.
One organization with a lot at stake is the Step Up ‘n’ Ride Society, which provides a transportation service for the elderly and disabled in Dawson Creek, and until recently, Pouce Coupe. Mona McNalley, supervisor for the society, said her organization expected a $55,000 grant to provide service this year, but has only received a quarter of that. She said as a result, they can no longer provide a subsidized service to residents of Pouce Coupe, only those who can afford to pay the full rates.
McNally said she is not sure if the funding lost will ever be restored, but she hopes there will be some commitment from government to a more predictable, multi-year funding model.
“I plan to listen, but my hope is we will see gaming funds secured again for more than one year at a time,” she said about her expectations on the forum tomorrow. “I’m not sure I see our money being restored that we lost, but hopefully going forward we’ll see some sort of continuity from the government, so that we’re not sitting on pins and needles every year.”
She said the government used to commit to three-year contracts, but now only provides year-to-year funding, which makes it difficult for them to budget.
McNalley will be representing more than just Step Up ‘n’ Ride at the forum, as the president of the Northern Lights Community Charitable Gaming Association, made up of 26 service groups based in Dawson Creek. She said the concern about a more secure model of funding is one shared by the membership broadly, as well as restoring funding for adult sports and adult arts and culture that was cut for 2009/10.
Rick Le Gear will be attending the forum as the recording secretary for the local council of the Knights of Columbus – a fraternal, Catholic service club with about 55 members locally – and as the treasurer for the Northern Lights Community Charitable Gaming Association. He said while the grant to the Knights of Columbus was restored to $15,000 earlier this year after being cut in half last year, he is still concerned about the level and predictability of funding going forward.
“With the downturn in the economy, we’re not even sure if we’re going to be getting full funding,” he said. “I’m hoping (Premier) Christy Clark will continue to fund us fully, but at the moment, they’ve restored funding but there was no guarantee that funding we used to get will continue.”
He said that funding allows for donations to local food banks, sports teams, the local Boy Scouts and Catholic Social Services, for example.
Le Gear said having to replay for gaming grants every year creates a great deal of additional paperwork, and returning to a three-year funding model would be welcomed. He said organizations that receive grants would still be required to submit annual summary reports of how that money is spent, and there would be mechanisms in place for the government to withdraw funding should an organization not be meeting its stated mandate, so he does not believe accountability is an issue.
In the interest of full disclosure, Mile 0 City notes its reporter, Matthew Bains, is a liaison to the Northern Lights Community Charitable Gaming Association (formerly the Northern Lights Bingo Association) for the board of the South Peace Community Resources Society.