Grant cuts leave Peninsula community groups in the lurch

Ocean Discovery Centre hopes to fill gaps with more volunteers

A boy checks out the jellyfish tank at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. The aquarium may have to rely on volunteers more than ever after the federal government didn’t award it and other community groups money to hire summer students.

Volunteers will be asked to fill the void at Sidney’s award-winning aquarium this summer. The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre was forced to cut some staff from its summer programming after losing out on federal grants.

“The centre has been successful during the past two summers in obtaining a $22,000 employment grant from the federal government,” said Angus Matthews, executive director at Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre.

The aquarium used that cash to subsidize employment of five extra staff – four in interpretive programming – usually post secondary marine biology students.

“It was a big help to us and a great asset to us,” Matthews said. “Sadly this year with cutbacks, apparently this particular riding, this constituency, had exceeded the dollar value of grants that were available.”

Lack of the grant means some cutting back and asking more of volunteers this summer.

“We will incur extra costs in having the key staff we need to offer our summer programs and the centre is likely to feel some serious financial pressure as a consequence,” Matthews said. “We’ll press more volunteers into service to see if we can deliver the same programs those students used to deliver with our oceaneer volunteers.”

Peninsula Co-op has come forward with a $5,000 donation that will keep the summer camps afloat.

The Shoal Centre is among those non-profit groups dealing with less summer staffing after losing out the summer job grant this year. They will manage with staff shifting of holiday time.

The Mary Winspear Centre received the full request for three summer students in 2010, but last year and this year, they requested three and received one.

“As a non profit community cultural centre, this presents a challenge. It really restricts our ability to undertake summer improvement projects at Blue Heron Park, and the Mary Winspear Centre,” said Chad Rintoul executive director of the Mary Winspear Centre. “Having said that, one student is better than none, and she will have a busy summer.”

Of the 50 Saanich Gulf Islands projects OK’d for funding through Canada Summer Jobs, 11 are on the Saanich Peninsula. Sidney North Saanich Yacht club was recommended for three of the 14 positions funded on the Peninsula. There are 79 funded positions throughout the constituency.

“Clearly some really important community services got missed,” said MP Elizabeth May.

It’s a question of all the applicants and all the criteria. She does have a small say in the allotment after Service Canada has reviewed the criteria and made recommendations.

“Every time I try to push back … that means they have to take somebody who’s already approved off the list,” she said. “I try not to interfere too much.”

She did that in the past and found the Memorial Parks Society (Mary Winspear Centre) was denied altogether at one point.

“It’s a really tough process of making sure nobody gets missed,” May said.

She plans to follow up with the groups that weren’t approved for the $372,104 worth of funding through Canada Summer Jobs.

“I’m going to have my office call those that didn’t and see if we can’t get some funding from some other sources,” she said.

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