Denial of grant illustrates SAR funding issues

Whistler Search and Rescue did not receive the $72,000 grant they applied for from the BC Gaming Commission this year.

Earlier this summer I wrote a series of blog posts on the SAR funding model in BC and attempted to make the point that the grant funding model is flawed, using a scenario like what Whistler is experiencing as an example.

Since SAR teams do not have a guaranteed level of funding that takes into account the actual needs of the team, they are forced to apply for funds every year. Our applications are regularly funded, but almost never to the requested level. There is no oversight on applications, and there is no expertise in the gaming grants office in SAR to properly evaluate the applications.

Grants come in and the SAR team is forced into a “boom and bust” mode where they are forced to spend out the grant, even if conditions have changed and what they applied for is no longer needed.

In this case, Whistler SAR did what they believe to be the ethical thing and put the money into savings rather than buy equipment they do not need. In many places, such financial prudence would be considered proper practise, but when dealing with the gaming grants this is not the case.

SAR teams cannot make multi-year plans under the current system.

You would hope that a world class vital public safety service would enjoy some stable funding that takes into account the actual equipment, training and safety needs of the SAR groups rather than this haphazard arrangement.

The BC Search and Rescue Association addressed this situation in their recent discussion paper, submitted to the BC Government this summer. Adopting any one of the systems in the BCSARA paper would avoid situations like what Whistler SAR is experiencing.


3 Comments on “Denial of grant illustrates SAR funding issues

  1. I agree the current funding model is not the best, however gaming is a good source of funding for our groups, in order for us to serve our communities. I believe that a funding model similar to that of the Volunteer fire service is a great example of what could be done.
    Another downfall for SAR members is a lack of tax breaks. We purchase our own personal gear at great expense. Would a 500 or 1000 dollar tax break be that difficult to implement?

    As for whistler SAR, it is very difficult dealing with gaming at times. As for left over funds, you can submit a letter to gaming asking to carry over funds and to take the current underspent amount and deduct it from the next years budget request. Lots of hoops and barriers to go through, its definitely not easy when you are a volunteer trying on your own time to run your society.

    • Mike, agree that Gaming is a good source of funds. I think a pre-allocated chunk of the gaming funds that is guaranteed every year, and another chunk allocated for infrastructure improvements would be one way to go. I believe that there should also be an advisory/approval process where some input into an application from SAR experts should be considered. This would allow for some prioritization of projects across the province or regionally.

      I’m not sure how volunteer fire is funded, but I think it’s from the tax base? This is difficult for SAR because the actual rescues take place outside of most city/distrct boundaries. To address this earlier in the summer I mentioned the regional districts as a funding and regulatory model.

      My own team has “carried over” funds for projects once or twice, but you have to have a compelling reason for the carry over. In our case it was delays imposed by Transport Canada and beyond our control.

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