The Hay River Ski Club worries for its survival after members said recent funding changes will mean the club loses about two-thirds of its budget in future years.
In the past, the club relied on an arrangement that allowed it to act as a retailer of lottery tickets, keeping some of the income. That ended in 2016, when the territorial government changed the way the NWT’s lottery is run and how the subsequent revenue is distributed to sports.
That year’s Western Canada Lottery Act removed the ability of non-profits like the ski club to act as lottery retailers. Instead, the territory introduced a Legacy Retailer Grant Program designed to soften the blow of the change by providing a fixed sum annually as a replacement for direct revenue from lottery tickets.
Six NWT groups received that legacy funding from 2016 to 2021. The ski club says the legacy funding provided around $33,000 to the club each year – but that legacy program has now ended, which the club says came as a surprise.
Chuck Lirette, representing the club, said “the future of the ski club is at risk.”
“It’s critical for the survival of our club that we have that money coming back in,” he said of the legacy funding. “Without those proceeds we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills, we wouldn’t be able to carry on for sure.
“Last year, very unexpectedly, they informed us that they were cutting our funding completely and they had no intention to renewing that.
“As far as we know there was never any kind of consultation process or any kind of information that was relayed on to us, it just very kind-of suddenly changed in terms of an email that we were going to be losing our funding.”
The club otherwise relies on membership fees and some support from Cross Country NWT, the territorial sport organization for cross-country skiing. Lirette says that’s not nearly enough to cover the club’s operations.
The NWT’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs administers sport funding in the territory. Hay River’s ski club now has an agreement with the department to receive around $33,000 this financial year and half that next year through a “stabilization fund” for non-profits.
A spokesperson for Maca said that funding will be a one-off top-up. The “vast majority of sport organizations self-fund,” the spokesperson said.
“The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs does not provide core funding to any community-based sport organizations directly in any community in the Northwest Territories,” the spokesperson continued.
“It is important that funding is approached consistently and with fiscal responsibility in mind across the NWT.”
Lirette, though, says Hay River’s ski club has become reliant on the legacy funding. The $33,000, he said, covers operational costs associated with having a building – costs covered with municipal support in some communities with ski clubs, but not in Hay River.
He is pushing for the legacy funding to be renewed indefinitely.
In a letter issued to reporters, Lirette said Hay River MLAs Rocky and RJ Simpson had each “lobbied for our funding to be restored.”
Lirette said two other groups in Hay River are affected by the same change and drew a link with the suspension of school bus service in the community.
“A lot of people are upset that these cuts are affecting kids, affecting youth,” he said.
“What I think is really important is that the money that is coming from the lotteries is based on lotteries that are happening in our community. The revenues that are generated in Hay River, we really think they should be coming back to Hay River to support the groups that support sport and recreation.”