Wendy Huntbatch would be delighted if her World Parrot Refuge in Coombs is able to get a provincial government gaming grant again, but she says she won’t find out until some time next month whether she did.
Premier Christy Clark this week announced $15 million in increased funding for community groups through the gaming grant program, adding that groups previously deemed ineligible will now be able to apply.
Contacted in Vancouver, Huntbatch said her organization has been scrambling to come up with enough funds to operate since they lost approximately $100,000 in grants when the provincial government cut back the program in 2010.
“It would be very good for me because I wouldn’t have to stress about fundraising all the time,” Huntbatch said. “Since they cut the grants they’ve put up the minimum wage twice, EI and CPP are also going up and everything we buy for the birds has gone through the roof. A bag of walnuts went up by $9, which really adds up when you buy five bags a day. The price of peanuts has also gone through the roof.”
Since losing the grant, Huntbatch and her group have racked their brains to find innovative ways to bring in enough money to keep going, including opening a thrift store on the site and selling paintings done by the parrots themselves.
Huntbatch said she has applied for a gaming grant under the educational category, noting her facility provides a great deal of education as part of its mandate.
“I haven’t heard anything yet,” she said. “I probably won’t hear until February.”
Although he said he hoped the sanctuary — along with the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in nearby Errington — get their grants back, Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser was critical of the announcement, noting the Liberal government gave out $156 million in 2008, a total that was later cut to $120 million. The $15 million added to the pot, he said, still leaves a shortfall of $26 million.
“They did a $36 million cut and made a bunch of groups ineligible,” he said. “She reinstated the funding for those groups that may have weathered the devastation of losing their funds, but the money has to be spread out to all the groups — and it’s $26 million short of what it was in 2008.”