This morning we received a copy of a new letter from Gambling Minister Rich Coleman to the Executive Director of the BC Association of Charitable Gaming (BCACG) Susan Marsden. In it he refuses to restore gaming grants to arts.
His letter is a (very late) response to the BCACG’s open letter of early October that reminded Rich Coleman of the government’s legal obligation to charities. Perhaps Minister Coleman was receiving legal advice during that interval? The reason for the delay is not clear, but the BCACG has been told it does have a strong legal case. There is, it appears, a fair amount of legal bluff in this letter.
On the matter of the economy, no other province has cut arts in the way – not even close. So why is this government constantly using the excuse of the recession? Is it blaming its own economic mismanagement in these hard times and admitting its hard right economics haven’t worked (and that it now has to rely on gambling revenues)? It is becoming very difficult conclude otherwise.
It’s very interesting that for such a relatively small amount of money Rich Coleman is willing to put up with the ire of the 80,000 in the arts sector (80,000), arts audiences (3 million British Columbians), and what’s more all the communities struggling to keep their museums, theatres, key arts organizations and jobs afloat. We hear rumour that Coleman plans to back Kevin Falcon in the BC Liberal leadership race. Let’s hope Coleman’s position on gaming grants to arts – which were the bulk of arts funding in BC until they were cut – does not become Falcon’s arts platform. The vast majority of British Columbians don’t feel this government has handled the recession well and will not be tolerant of it dinging them twice.
December 9, 2010
Dear Ms. Marsden:
I am responding to your October 15, 2010 open letter, written on behalf of the British Columbia Association for Charitable Gaming (BCACG), regarding the redevelopment of Edgewater Casino and funding provided through community gaming grants.
While I appreciate the BCACG’s efforts to further the interests of gaming grant recipients, it is erroneous to base funding levels on an agreement that is no longer in effect.
The 1999 Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) with BCACG and the Bingo Council of British Columbia were signed by a previous government. Since the MOA was signed in 1999, the model for bingo gaming has fundamentally changed. For example, the MOA references the BC Gaming Commission and its role as the licensing authority. The Gaming Commission no longer exists. The MOA speaks to the involvement of licensed charities in bingo gaming. Responsibility for the conduct and management of commercial bingo halls shifted from licensed charities to the BC Lottery Corporation. The MOA also references a bingo facility level guarantee, which was phased out in 2002.
It is important to note the MOA was intended as an interim measure to remain in effect until comprehensive gaming legislation was introduced. The Gaming Control Act, which came into effect in 2002, superseded all previous gaming legislation and agreements. The BCACG and others were consulted on the legislation as it was being developed. No revenue sharing guarantees were established in the Act. Despite this, until the 2009/10 fiscal year, government made a policy decision to adhere to the spirit of the MOA as it related to the level of grants, subject to budgetary approval each fiscal year.
Starting with a base of $125 million in 1999, grant funding increased each year by the rate of Vancouver Consumer Price Index until 2009/10. In that year, British Columbia, as well as jurisdictions worldwide, faced unprecedented economic challenges. Provincial revenues decreased substantially, requiring that difficult decisions be made to ensure core services continued to be delivered. As a result, funding for gaming grants decreased for the first time in over a decade.
As the global economy is still recovering, difficult decisions regarding our grant programs continue. This year, government was able to commit $120 million for community gaming grants, which is up from $113 million last year. This funding will go to approximately 6,000 community organizations that assist public safety, youth and disabled sports, people in need, fairs, festivals and museums, community services such as preschools, and Parent Advisory Councils.
At this time, it is too early to speculate about funding levels for community gaming grants in future years. Such funding decisions are determined through the annual budget planning process and are tabled as part of the provincial budget in February each year.
Government remains steadfast in our commitment to help build strong communities through the community gaming grant program, while we contend with these challenging economic times.