John Oliver focuses on the ball for a backhand.

Trillium limbo

By Jenn Watt

April 26 2016

The Haliburton Highlands has been well supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation over the years.

Each funding cycle we at the paper expect at least a couple of local organizations to land a grant which inevitably enhances the larger community.

$110 million is awarded annually across the province about $6 million of that came to the region of Durham Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge last year.

Trillium or OTF has several types of grants including “seed” to fund ideas “grow” to allow organizations to move forward with projects “collective impact” for multiple organizations coming together to tackle a big social problem and “capital” to improve infrastructure.

In March OTF announced the $25 million set aside for capital grants this year would be diverted and that no new applications for that stream would be accepted.

The decision set off a string of criticism from Opposition MPPs across the province including our own Laurie Scott.

“The Liberal government’s decision to suspend the $25 million program hurts Legions community centres and other community facilities across Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock” Scott’s press release said.

She noted that the announcement was just weeks before the intake deadline for the next round of grants meaning those who had put hours into writing the applications had done so in vain.

“The government has dumped the applications for April and disregarded the thousands of volunteer hours that it took to complete them right into the shredder” she said. (The cancellation did not affect the most recent round of grants which we’ve detailed in this paper.)

There is no indication when the capital grants funding stream will return. The information Scott received indicates the money has been diverted for Canada’s 150 celebration to what she called an “Ontario 150” program. OTF’s website calls it a “community capital fund” but gives no other details.

If there is a plan for when the capital grants will return it’s not clear to the general public. It could be that the Ontario 150 program or the community capital fund will fill this need – or maybe not.
We also don’t know whether eligibility will change which is a concern for those who have already started putting together applications.

A change in the capital grants program is certainly not the end of the world but it does affect local groups in our community doing good work. Capital funding allows groups with little extra money to repair buildings and renovate spaces they could never afford otherwise. It frees them up to do the programming that improves our communities. Before OTF put this useful community program on ice they should have first established what would replace it. Instead those who planned to apply in this grant cycle find themselves and their projects in limbo.