As legislators await to review the Northwest Territories new lotteries bill clause by clause, members of the territory's sports, recreation and arts communities are clawing for more funds.

Wednesday, the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs Caroline Cochrane gave a firm no to directing lottery funds to the arts, currently earmarked for sports and recreation.

"At this point — because it is only under $5 million — I would not be willing to entertain to move it to any other services except for sports and recreation," said Cochrane at the hearing Wednesday, saying she'll leave the five regional sports organizations to decide whether the arts fall under "recreation."

But members of the arts community want to be included. 

"It was acknowledged the arts provide an equal benefit for the community and individual, but it's disappointing that the minister refuses to engage arts specialists in the conversation," said Mary Kelly, a music teacher and workshop facilitator in Yellowknife, after attending Wednesday's first hearing on the lottery act.

"The minister seems pretty protective of letting the sports and recreation organisations provide that definition ... and that's a very biased approach," said Kelly on Thursday.

N.W.T. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs

Artists, athletes and politicians gathered to hear if the N.W.T. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs would consider giving lottery funds to the arts Wednesday. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Kelly says funding for the arts is less dependable compared to the lottery dollars that feed sports and recreation annually.

"That funding has to be applied for every year [to N.W.T. arts council], and has to be project specific," Kelly said. 

What's the definition of recreation?

Janie Hobart, president of the Mackenzie Recreation Association, argued funds for sports and the arts needs to be addressed in her presentation to the standing committee on government operations.

"Both the sports and recreation sector and arts sector deserve proper funding. My concern is the lottery will be diluted if it doesn't stay with sports," said Hobart, adding that the government should provide adequate funding for the arts sector and leave the lottery funding with the sports sector.

Hobart says an open discussion on what recreation is needs to happen, and a definition solidified before the lottery bill goes forward.

Janie Hobart

Janie Hobart, president of the Mackenzie Recreation Association, says recreation goes beyond sport. (Submitted by Janie Hobart)

"When people hear recreation they only think of sport. Recreation is so much more like walking, hunting and fishing."

The funding in question is regulated under the Western Canada Lottery Act, which was passed in 1988 to provide revenues for sport and recreation programs in the territory.  

The legislative assembly is reviewing the bill after warnings from the Canada Revenue Agency that those revenues could be subject to federal taxation.