'Where would these people go?': Manitoba non-profits concerned over potential cuts

Some Manitoba community groups worry they won't be able to operate without full provincial funding.

Social service and arts non-profits worry about operating costs and lost revenue

Staff at the North End Women's Centre prepare toiletry packages to give away. The centre says at least a hundred people a day are dropping in for help. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

News that the province is looking at funding cuts for some non-profit groups has put some Manitoba community groups on edge.

The Progressive Conservative government says it wants to divert money — slated for non-essential service providers — to front-line health care costs instead.

It's not clear where the cuts will land, or which groups will be considered essential. But some Winnipeg non-profits say their services are needed now more than ever.

"I can't imagine what would happen if we didn't have that funding," says North End Women's Centre Executive Director Cynthia Drebot.

She says since the start of the pandemic, the centre has been providing basic necessities — such as food, toiletries and diapers — to about a hundred people a day. 

Drebot says that's about three times more visitors than the centre usually sees in a day. 

"Where would these people go for their basic needs?" she asks. "Basic needs don't go away during a pandemic."

Executive Director Cynthia Drebot says the North End Women's Centre probably wouldn't be able to make up a budget shortfall if the province makes cuts. (Submitted by Cynthia Drebot)

Drebot says while demand is up, offering services has become more time-consuming and costly. For example, programs such as group trauma counselling are now done one-on-one, over the phone, when possible.

"You have to do everything differently, and you have to do it more particularly," she says, pointing to higher costs on things like cleaning supplies and packaging.

Drebot says most of the provincial funding the North End Women's Centre gets is tied to its support services for victims of domestic violence. She's worried the program could see cuts at a critical time. 

"Nobody's going to give us new funding, because everyone's in survival mode," she says. "And we're not necessarily going to be eligible for the federal relief funds." 

She says the federal program requires a business or nonprofit to lose at least 30 per cent of its revenue to qualify for emergency benefits. Even if the province eliminated all of its contributions to the NEWC, that would only represent roughly 15 to 20 per cent of its budget.

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Meanwhile, the West End Cultural Centre says it now has "zero revenue." But the bills keep coming in.

"It's been pretty devastating around the office," says WECC Executive Director Jason Hooper.

Jason Hooper of the West End Cultural Centre says it's essential to support arts venues during the pandemic, or they might disappear. ((photo provided by Jason Hooper))

Without ticket sales, the centre has had to lay off all of its employees, except for Hooper and the booking agent, who's now furiously trying to set new dates for all the concerts in its lineup.

The cultural centre hopes to get help from Ottawa, but hasn't yet been able to apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Hooper says unlike major banks, its local credit union hasn't yet set up an application process.

He says the proposed cuts have left him with a lot of questions, especially when it comes to defining which services are critical to support.

"As a concert hall, we're not exactly essential to the day-to-day operations of the city," says Hooper.

"But in the bigger picture, arts and cultural institutions are absolutely essential to the good of the city, the economy and the province."

'We're really gonna want to have places to gather'

Hooper says while the arts may not seem like a necessity, things like music, movies and books are helping people get through this crisis. And he says if we don't look out for venues during the pandemic, they simply won't survive.

"When this is over and everything gets lifted, that's when we're really gonna want to have places to gather," says Hooper. 

"Whether it's the West End Cultural Centre or the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre or the arena or Good Will Social Club —  we're going to want to get together and we're going to want to celebrate," he says. 

"Celebrate the things that make us a community and make us humans."

Non-profits concerned over potential cuts

3 years ago
Duration 2:26
News that the province is looking at funding cuts for some non-profit groups has put some Manitoba community groups on edge.

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From sports associations, to support for seniors, to language classes for newcomers, there are hundreds of non-profits in Manitoba.

According to a government memo obtained by CBC, provincial departments must provide the treasury with detailed financial reports on the non-profits they're funding by noon Wednesday.


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