At a time when climate change awareness is increasing, three Winnipeg-based non-profits that provide environmental education say their funding from the provincial government is plummeting.
Manitoba Eco-Network, Green Action Centre and Climate Change Connection learned last week they won't get hundreds of thousands of dollars they had budgeted for this fiscal year.
A provincial government spokesperson confirmed the Department of Conservation and Climate is changing the way it provides grants to non-profits starting next year. (Sarah Guillemard, the minister responsible for the file, wasn't made available for an interview Monday.)
"The province is putting in place a new applications-based grant portal that will begin in the next fiscal year, so the 2019/20 fiscal year will be a transition year for funding," the spokesperson said by email.
"The Climate and Green Plan Implementation Office will be working with the Green Action Centre to transition to an outcomes-based system under the agreement currently being negotiated and through the new grants portal next fiscal year."
The spokesperson didn't mention the Manitoba Eco-Network or Climate Change Connection programs.
Curt Hull, project director for Climate Change Connection, said their group was told they won't get any of the $100,000 in provincial funding they had planned for. They learned the news more than seven months after the fiscal year began.
The Winnipeg Foundation has stepped up to provide half their funding, Hull said, which will allow two part-time staff to carry on with the work they used to do full time. He acknowledged the funding crunch has put them in "a difficult situation."
"I guess the point is that Climate Change Connection and organizations like ours provide a very valuable service to the public. And it’s the kind of service... (where) we’re working on many of the aspects of the (Manitoba) Climate and Green Plan. And if you think about it, where else will funding come from for that kind of public good?" he asked.
"If anything, now that the public has become more aware of the climate crisis and the severity of the climate crisis, they’re demanding more information, which is what our organization and organizations like ours provide."
Tracy Hucul, executive director of the Green Action Centre, said their organization won't receive $100,000 for its sustainable transportation program, but will still get $100,000 from the province to promote organics diversion.
Hucul had been asking the provincial government for months to confirm what their funding allotment would be for 2019-20. The reduction confirmed last week has forced them to cut staff hours and lay off one employee, she said.
"I understand that governments and departments can change the way that they operate and the way that they run programs," she said. "That kind of transition is understandable. But for a non-profit to be able to know that earlier on in the fiscal year obviously, so that they can plan accordingly, would be very valuable to us."
Richard Dilay, board chair of the Manitoba Eco-Network, relayed that his group may shut altogether. They had been receiving provincial funding for the past 20 years and will now go without the $60,000 in funding they expected from government this year.
"That $60,000 may not sound like a lot of money, but for us that was our core funding that provided some stability for our organization," he said.
Manitoba Eco-Network shares office space with several other eco-conscious organizations above Mountain Equipment Co-op on Portage Ave. Dilay said they may have to come up with alternative arrangements with their landlord to try and make ends meet when their lease expires in March 2020.
Their board is also grappling with whether the 35-year-old organization should press on, Dilay said.
"Unfortunately, unless we’re able to kind of find alternate funding sources in the next little while, it’s very much an existential crisis that we’re in," he said.
The board will discuss next steps at their annual general meeting in early 2020.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.