BCACG calls on Christy Clark to replace Rich Coleman in gaming portfolio

Rich Coleman (left)

The BC Association for Charitable Gaming and the Alliance for Arts and Culture call on Premier-designate Christy Clark to replace Solicitor General Rich Coleman as Minister responsible for gaming in the Province of BC.

They cite:

• The crisis in public confidence in the integrity of the gaming industry;
• Loss of confidence of the charitable and non-profit sector in Minister Coleman’s leadership;
• The failure or refusal of Minister Coleman to meet or consult with the charitable sector respecting the impact of cuts to gaming grants;
• Political interference in the administration of gaming grants through the manipulation of eligibility criteria;
• Intimidation of individuals and organizations that challenge the granting system;
• The ongoing funding crisis in the charitable sector, in which close to 1500 non-profits may close within months.

In February, 2011, a message was conveyed to individuals close to the BCACG that unnamed persons in the provincial government were unhappy with the challenge by the BCACG and the Alliance to the Paragon Gaming casino application in Vancouver. It was stated that continuing this strategy could result in charities being hurt.

On Thursday, March 3, the BC Persons With AIDS Society received an unexpected cut of $50,000 from its gaming grant, which had remained stable for 6 years. BCPWAS has been a supporter of the challenge to Paragon Gaming’s application to expand its license. The implication is clear.

As Minister Coleman’s strong personal attack on Inspector Barry Baxter, head of the RCMP Proceeds of Crime Unit, demonstrates, there is a price to be paid for speaking up.

“For too long, charities and non-profits have been intimidated into silence,” says Susan Marsden, Executive Director of the BCACG. “Our member organizations support families and communities, and the crisis in gaming grants has become a crisis for too many British Columbians across the province. It is deeply unhealthy that organizations not only feel the financial pressure, but are silenced by fear of the minister responsible.”

“We note that Premier designate Clark has called for a comprehensive review of gaming policy in BC; an initiative which we strongly support.” stated Amir Ali Alibhai, Executive Director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture.

Both the Alliance and the BCACG jointly maintain that given the critical lapses in competence and integrity in the management and administration of the gaming grants process, and the fear of retribution that charities and non-profits have toward the program, “we do not have confidence that this review can be adequately conducted while Minister Coleman controls the portfolio”, concluded Mr. Alibhai.

"For ten years Minister Coleman has been the architect of British Columbia’s gambling industry, of grants to charities and non-profits, of the marketing and promotion of gambling in BC, and now of its policing.

"The time for change has arrived," a statement by the group says.

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