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Arts groups ask for a piece of lottery pie

Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo
Arts advocate Eli Purchase asks MLAs on Wednesday to consider adding arts organizations to the sports and recreation groups that get proceeds from lottery ticket sales.

Artists and arts organizations are asking to be included as beneficiaries of money raised through lottery ticket sales.

Under the Western Canada Lottery Act, proceeds from lotteries held in the territory go toward physical activity, sports and recreation programs.

However, as the Western Canada Lottery Act is being updated to protect lottery revenues from federal taxation, arts advocates are hoping the government will consider arts programs as eligible for funding as well.

A committee room inside the legislature was packed Wednesday with representatives from the arts and sports communities who came to hear and make statements before a standing committee of MLAs about why their activities should be funded through the sale of Scratch 'N Win cards, Lotto 6/49 tickets, and other lotteries.

Caroline Cochrane, the minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, told the committee that lotteries in the Northwest Territories generate about $4.7 million a year in revenue.

Cochrane said she was unwilling to allocate lottery proceeds anywhere other than to the five regional sports and recreation organizations.

In the act, the term “recreation” is undefined.

MLA Julie Green asked if Cochrane would consider expanding the definition of recreation to include artistic activities.

Cochrane said she would pass on Green's suggestion to the Aboriginal Sports Circle of Northwest Territories, the Sport North Federation, the NWT Recreation and Parks Association, the Beaufort Delta Sahtu Recreation Association and the Mackenzie Recreation Association.

“They will define recreation and I will stand behind their definition,” she said.

More than 270 people so far have signed an online petition started by artist and arts promoter Eli Purchase to amend the lottery act to allow for proceeds to go toward the arts.

Jasmine Gardner, a Yellowknife-based illustrator and graphic designer, said that like sports, the arts promote mental wellness, yet there is a dearth of spaces to create art the territory.

“There are two huge heated buildings that we have that anyone can go into an play sports pretty much any time of the day,” she said. “I would really like to see a similar thing for the arts.”

Though the government has not done a “complete analysis” of territorial arts funding, Cochrane said that other departments collectively put at least $3 million a year towards arts programs.

Cochrane expects the revised lottery act to come into force this summer.