Backlash ensues over rejected grants

Social agencies and local government met with a B.C. Gaming official Thursday

The loss of funding has local non-profits fighting back.

About 30 representatives from social agencies and local government met with a B.C. Gaming official Thursday to discuss the recent discontinuation of grants and the impact on programs.

“If your program supports a person, you are not eligible, or if it supports an agency, you are not eligible,” said Barb Levesque, John Howard Society executive director.

“Who else are we to support?”

John Howard has been warned that it may lose a gaming grant because helping residents purchase dentures or work boots is not considered a broad community benefit. NexusBC had to cancel its volunteer program because a grant disappeared while the Upper Room Mission lost $100,000.

Rob Sawatzky, a John Howard director and former Vernon mayor, says a social contract was established when a casino set up in Vernon.

“That’s our money. It’s raised in our community and it’s owed back to us,” he said.

During the session, the process for determining who receives funding was outlined.

“You apply for a program and not as an agency. That is a critical distinction,” said David Horricks, executive director of the community support division of the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.

“Just because you got $75,000 last year doesn’t mean you get $75,000 this year because we have demands on a finite pool.”

A group’s total source of funding is part of the grant process, and Horricks insists the organization must be accountable.

“This is public money and this is something too often forgotten.”

While groups believe eligibility requirements have changed, Horricks says that’s not the case.

“We’re compliant in providing funds to organizations that didn’t meet the guidelines,” he said. “We are trying to apply program guidelines in the way they are written and to be equitable.”

Levesque still questions the government’s definition of broad community benefit when it comes to issuing grants.

“When you fund a playground and only children go, I will argue broad community benefit. Seniors don’t hang from the jungle gym,” she said.

NexusBC and the Upper Room Mission have appealed the rejected grant decisions.


Vernon Morning Star