Oshawa aid groups struggle for funding in wake of GM collapse

As Oshawa struggles to cope with the impending GM closing, some of the city's charitable groups are being warned not to get their hopes up for continued grant funding.

Staff recommend only one of 19 groups should get grants in 2019

Sandra McCormack, executive director of The Denise House, says the partnership grant she's hoping for would help the 250 women and kids she helps shelter every year. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

Some of Oshawa's community aid agencies will find out Monday how much they can expect to get — if anything — in new grants from city coffers this year.

But as the city struggles to cope with the impending GM closure, those charitable groups are being warned not to get their hopes up.

"You're seeing a bit of a tightening of the screws," Coun. Brian Nicholson, vice-chair of the city's finance committee, told CBC Toronto. "We simply do not know where we're going to stand in the next 10 to 12 months with the GM situation. And that is a major hit for us, any way you cut it. You're talking about $8 million just to our taxes, just from General Motors alone."

Late last year, GM announced it would be closing its assembly plant in Oshawa, throwing almost 3,000 people out of work.

Oshawa Coun. Brian Nicholson is vice chair of the city's finance committee. (City of Oshawa)

The city's finance committee meets just after noon today, and one of the items they'll be discussing is the 2019 partnership grants to some of the city's charitable and cultural groups.

Of the 19 agencies that applied for those grants, staff are recommending that only one — an urban farming advocacy group called We Grow Food — be approved.

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said the apparent stinginess is a routine part of the process, because staff have strict guidelines that must be met before a request is approved.

Carter said some of the staff rejections will be overruled by local politicians at the finance committee, or, later, by city council.

Nicholson agreed that's the case. But he said he also expects that with such a drastically reduced pie this year, all entities that rely on city funds should be ready for some belt tightening — including aid and cultural agencies.

Oshawa city hall. The finance committee will meet here Monday, Jan. 7 to talk about grants to some of the city's smaller aid and cultural groups. (Mike Smee/CBC)

"I think they may be a little bit harder on the grants this time because we are facing the potential of a massive hit," he said.

Nicholson said GM provides the city with about $8 million annually in property taxes.

But since the city has to tighten its belt, he said, local organizations may be asked to sacrifice too.

That's a prospect that Sandra McCormack finds "discouraging and disappointing."

She's executive director of an Oshawa women's shelter called The Denise House — one of the 18 groups staff recommended should not be receiving a partnership grant.

The Canadian Automotive Museum in downtown Oshawa is, ironically, one of the institutions that could suffer as a result of GM's decision to close its assembly plant there. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

The shelter provides a safe place to stay and support services for about 250 women and their children every year.

She has asked the city for a one-time $5,000 partnership grant. Partnership grants, as opposed to anchor grants, are usually given to groups that can't find funding elsewhere and are not meant to be ongoing.

The $5,000 "will provide a warm bed, bedding, emergency clothing, food, for a number of families on a monthly basis," McCormack said. Without that extra money, "it will be a challenge."

Alex Gates, of the Canadian Car Museum in Oshawa, says failure to have the city approve his partnership grant could put some programs in jeopardy. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

Up the street, at the Canadian Automotive Museum, executive director Alex Gates has also applied for a partnership grant. Although the $5,000 he has asked for would make up a small portion of his budget, he is also counting on councillors to overturn staff's recommendation to deny the museum a grant.

"It's still important for us to do what we do here and tell the story of both Oshawa and the Canadian automobile experience," he said.

Both Gates and McCormack say they plan to attend Monday's finance committee meeting where they'll try to convince councillors to overturn the staff decisions.

A list of the agencies that have applied for 2019 grants from the City of Oshawa. Staff are recommending that only We Grow Food's application be approved.

  • Autism Home Base Durham Inc. — $5,000 grant.
  • Canadian Automotive Museum — $5,000 grant.
  • Canadian Cancer Society — CIBC Run for the Cure — $15,700 in-kind services.
  • Driftwood Theatre Group — $5,000 grant.
  • Durham Outlook for the Needy — $5,000 grant.
  • Durham Youth Orchestra — $5,000 grant.
  • Grandview Children's Centre — $35,000 grant.
  • Kids' Safety Village of Durham Region — $5,000 grant.
  • New Life Neighbourhood Centre — $5,000 grant.
  • Oshawa Firefighter Charity Slo Pitch Tournament — $2,100 in-kind services.
  • Oshawa FireFit — $9,400 grant, $2,900 in-kind services.
  • Sedna Women's Shelter & Support Services Inc. (The Denise House) — $5,000 grant.
  • Simcoe Hall Settlement House — $5,000 grant.
  • The LivingRoom Community Art Studio — $5,000 grant.
  • The Refuge Youth Outreach Centre — $2,600 in-kind services.
  • Their Opportunity Minor Sports Corporation — $2,600 in-kind services.
  • Victim Services of Durham Region — $4,800 grant.
  • YWCA Durham (Oshawa Young Women's Christian Association) — $5,000 grant
  • We Grow Food — $5,000 grant.

With files from Lisa Xing


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