Petition to fund N.W.T. arts with lottery funds gains traction

Proceeds from scratch and lottery tickets help fund sports programs across the N.W.T. — but not the arts. Eli Purchase wants to change that.

More than 200 people endorse initiative as legislative assembly reviews lotteries act

Lotteries in the Northwest Territories provide approximately $5 million in funding to sports and recreation programs across the territory. More than 100 people have signed a petition to see that money shared with arts programs. (CBC)

Proceeds from scratch and lottery tickets help fund sports programs across the Northwest Territories — but not the arts.

Eli Purchase wants that to change.

He's started an online petition to see this pot of money shared with aspiring artists.

"There are millions of dollars that come in, so maybe a couple hundred thousand could go to the arts council or something like that," he said.

Currently, about $5 million from lotteries fund sport and recreation programs across the territory.

Purchase formerly worked with a government department that supported the N.W.T. Arts Council. He also sits on sports boards in Yellowknife. As of Sunday afternoon, the petition had collected more than 200 signatures.

The legislative assembly's Standing Committee on Government Operations is currently reviewing the Western Canada Lottery Act — the committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the act on Wednesday.

Yellowknife resident Eli Purchase started the petition to share lottery funds with arts programming in the N.W.T. (Submitted by Eli Purchase)

Aaron Wells, executive director of NWT Aboriginal Sports Circle, says now is not the time to fight over funding.

"Both are probably underfunded," Wells said.

"But I don't think one sector taking money from another sector is the way to go about things."

The Western Canada Lottery Act was passed in 1988 to provide revenues for sport and recreation programs in the Northwest Territory. The legislative assembly is reviewing the bill after hearing warnings from the Canada Revenue Agency that those revenues could be subject to federal taxation.

The purpose of the review is to move the territory's lottery operations to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs in order to avoid this taxation, according to Jay Boast, a spokesperson with the department.

There are currently no proposals in the review to take money away from sports programming. However, MLAs could make changes as the bill moves through the legislative assembly.

Boast stated a number of territory's government departments provide funds for arts and cultural activities.