Minister Rich Coleman won’t restore gaming grants to arts

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to further the interests of gaming grant recipients, it is erroneous to base funding levels on an agreement that is no longer in effect.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.

Sincerely yours,

Rich Coleman
Solicitor General



8 responses to “Minister Rich Coleman won’t restore gaming grants to arts

  1. Time to start bringing the next batch of contenders for the leadership of the Liberal Party up to speed.
    Wishing and hoping won’t do it – there needs to be a coordinated call to action to engage all the Liberal Party Leadership contenders current/future to get on thier dance cards.

  2. That effort is underway. So far, the only Liberal candidate who has come out with an arts platform (a platform at all, let alone a decent one) is George Abbott. His is here:
    And the other Liberal candidates are being approached for their positions right now. When the NDP leadership race gets underway, their candidates will be asked too.

    We have to remember too that platforms can be abandoned, so we want concrete, specific promises not vague assurances.

  3. PS Susan I hope you and all other readers write Minister Coleman to ask him who he’s backing and what is that candidate’s plan for support of the arts sector? After a year of massive cuts and funding so low it doesn’t even resemble what every other province is giving per capita, this sector is extremely vulnerable.
    Write him at the Solicitor General’s office at

  4. @stopbcartscuts
    Thanks for the PS.
    I have gone down that path and we shall see.
    Coleman’s current Dep. Minister was the former Dep. Minister @ the former Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and we shall see if she is motivated.
    I am motivated to parlé with a candidate in the Liberal Party of BC leadership race who shows at least some interest, who even does not have a solid knowledge base for the arts and other not for profits, than I am motivated to “p-in the wind” @SG – sorry to be so blunt, but, maybe this is another kind of CALL TO ACTION.
    I believe the ARTS sector in BC needs a sustainability platform based on some serious positive outcome driven by bona fide strategic partnerships.
    This is what I am working towards.
    Susan Weiss

  5. Susan, can you elaborate on those partnerships? The arts and the BCACG have partnered in becoming a voice for all non-profits and charities in BC. We also have ties with the Coalition for a Better BC and other groups. Are you talking about partnerships with the private sector in terms of funding or political partnerships in terms of advocacy? Or both?

  6. @stopbcartscuts
    “Are you talking about partnerships with the private sector in terms of funding or political partnerships in terms of advocacy? Or both?”
    I am talking about both in terms of “investment” and long term strategic investment that generates an ROI in $$$ for sustaining product creation, delivery and distribution.
    My background and extensive experience has led me away from “granting/subsidy models” because I see, and too have personal knowledge of “government(s)” all over the world moving away from this model thus leaving a tragic and disastrous trail it their wake.
    Please send me an email and I am happy to elaborate more.

  7. With respect Susan, “background and experience” can lead people to very different conclusions. Our view is that a US-style private funding creates a very different cultural climate, and we need to move away from acquiescing to the destruction of a subsidy/granting model and the destruction of a truly public sphere. Private partnerships are great, though often very invasive (ask artists doing public works about the many pressures exerted on them in this way – even the overt pressure to place corporate logos etc. by their work – Rafael Lozano-Hemmer who did the Olympic night light piece in Vancouver was really fascinating on this topic). Public subsidy money for the arts supports works that private money probably never would – experimental work, critical and philosophical work, community arts work. We need to ask ourselves what kind of culture we want – thoughtful and innovative, or entertainment-based and commercially viable?

    We believe the arts can not function as a business, just as society should not be run like a business, regardless of what the far right would like us to believe. Are families a business? How far can this idea be taken, and why are so many so cooperatively buying into it? We may well see a global return of the idea of the public sphere – it’s not clear what will happen if there’s economic recovery after the crash produced by the last bout of rampant economic deregulation.

    • With respect @stopbcartscuts – I am not talking about a ‘US-style private funding”; although I know there are some good and sustainable arms length models out there.
      And there are also successful models of the arts functioning as a business too.
      As to the global return of the idea of the public sphere I can only wonder about the when/if/why/how/where…I ask – will it be a cup half full or a cup half empty ?
      And: For sure: “We need to ask ourselves what kind of culture we want – thoughtful and innovative, or entertainment-based and commercially viable?”
      I say “YES” to everything you mention above re: “asking ourselves about what kind of culture we want”.
      Like the armadillo, if one is inclined, as I am to choose such a mascot, it can only move forward.

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