With revenues from casinos and lotteries rising above $1.3 billion, the BC Liberal government is pledging a $5 million increase to its grant fund for community organizations for the coming year.
The pre-election budget to be introduced Feb. 21 increases the grant fund to $140 million, Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Peter Fassbender announced on the weekend. It's the first increase since Premier Christy Clark added $15 million to the fund to fulfil a leadership campaign pledge in 2012.
The new money will be reserved for capital projects of $20,000 or more, an area not funded in recent years.
"We've been listening to groups from around the province asking us to reinstate a capital program, and criteria will come out at the end of March, including the application process," Fassbender said in an interview Monday. "This is a beginning to going back to look at things like a community group that has a leaky roof in their theatre."
He disputed the suggestion that new capital projects are a way to generate popular announcements in the run-up to an election.
"At what point before an election is government supposed to stop doing things? Is it three months before or four months before?" Fassbender said. "There will be cynics no matter what we do. My view is we're meeting a need and I'm delighted to be able to do it."
Grants from gambling revenues cover a wide range of non-profit community organizations, from minor sports to wildlife shelters, transition houses, hospices, food banks, daycares and volunteer fire departments.