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This article was published 23/1/2019 (673 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba Public Insurance slashed its funding for community groups in half this fiscal year, a move that came on the heels of an assurance from the former Crown Services minister, who told non-profit organizations there was no need to fear cuts.
For the 2018-19 fiscal calendar, which began March 1, MPI cut funding for its community support program, which can be tapped by agencies dedicated to improving the quality of life of Manitobans, by 49.5 per cent.
The previous year the Crown corporation budgeted $530,490 for the program, although it paid out only $355,164, or 66 per cent of the total amount budgeted.
This fiscal year, MPI cut community funding to $268,000.
The cut came less than a month after former Crown Services minister Cliff Cullen said in early February that agencies didn’t need to fear funding reductions in the wake of the provincial government halting financial support to the Manitoba Community Services Council.
"Our government has ordered no changes to funding agreement made between Manitoba’s Crown corporations and community groups. The Crowns have not submitted their final budgets for the coming year as of yet, but we have no reason to expect substantive changes to the types of grants and funding they provide to community organizations," Cullen said at the time.
"Funding levels for community organizations are expected to remain consistent from past years, while reducing costly administrative overlap and duplication."
Requests for comment were submitted to the office of current Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer, but a spokesman directed the Free Press to MPI on her behalf.
MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said in a written statement Wednesday that the corporation began a comprehensive review of its guidelines for both its community support and business partnerships in 2017.
"This review was conducted with the goal of fiscal prudence in order to ensure MPI’s insurance rates remain among the lowest in Canada," Smiley said.
"Contributions have been revised to directly align with MPI’s core insurance, loss prevention and road-safety measures."
While MPI moved to drastically reduce support for community groups, the funding available to businesses has remained relatively stable. In 2017-18, MPI budgeted $685,000 for business partnerships, which dropped to $635,000 this year — a decrease of seven per cent.
One of the groups hit by the reduction in funding for community groups is the Manitoba Brain Injury Association, a non-profit dedicated to providing services and support to those dealing with the after-effects of brain injuries.
While the organization continues to receive some money from MPI for its Prevent Alcohol and Risk-related Trauma in Youth (P.A.R.T.Y.) program, which aims, among other things, to raise awareness among children of the dangers of drunk driving, it no longer receives help in its fundraising efforts for brain injury supports.
"We don’t have a lot of money to begin with. We’re a non-profit. So even though it was a relatively small amount of money, we did feel it absolutely, because we don’t have much," said MBIA executive director David Sullivan.
In a written statement, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the MBIA deserves "full, consistent funding so that it can continue to do important work," while claiming the province is refusing to take responsibility for this "damaging cut."
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the situation fits a pattern of behaviour for the current government, where it puts pressure on Crown corporations to cut funding, only to deny the province is responsible once the public learns what’s happened.
"The government has an obligation to not just hand money to businesses, but to invest in the community. I think partly this is just part of their entire mindset," Lamont said. "They want value for money, and to them, for some reason, that means giving more money to private businesses.
"It’s a really frustrating and strange mix because there’s a real need for that kind of community investment... To only focus on business partnerships is contrary to what these organizations should be doing because there are things of value that are hard to make a profit on."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.