Charest government forgets about low-income children



    Sports programs for low-income youth in funding crisis

    MONTREAL, March 21 /CNW/ - Two weeks ago, Jean Charest chose to don skis
to present his electoral commitments to physical health and a healthy
lifestyle. While he is promising a $500 tax credit for registering a child in
sports activities, the non-profit organizations (NPOs) that fund sports
activities for thousands of children from largely low-income families have
lost significant funding since the Tobacco Act came into force.

    Bingo profits get thousands of kids going

    Since May 31, 2006, the biggest losers are the charitable organizations
and programs that make it possible to offer a host of sports activities for
Montreal-area children. "Our organization has had a 40% shortfall in income,"
confirmed Serge Beaudoin, President of Jeunes Sportifs Hochelaga. "For 43
years, hockey practices and other sports activities have been free for kids
who live in low-income neighbourhoods like Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Without
funding from bingo, these kids would spend their time watching TV or hanging
out in the street, because they cannot afford any other activities. It's a far
cry from the physical activity the government wants to promote."
    Other charitable organizations funded by the profits from the Jeunes
Sportifs Hochelaga bingo include the Centre communautaire sportif Notre-Dame
de l'Assomption (community sports centre), the Centre Récréatif Poupart
(recreational centre) and Jeunesse 2000 Inc. All of these organizations rely
on bingo to raise funds that finance the sports programs and community
programs offered to hundreds of children and adolescents. Before the ban on
smoking, the Centre communautaire made a $19,000 profit over a six-month
period and only $3,000 since the ban took effect. "With an 85% decrease in
profits, it's the programs for young people and the jobs for monitors that are
compromised," confirmed Réjean Lagacé, President of the Centre communautaire
sportif Notre-Dame de l'Assomption.

    The NPOs are good sports

    The Fédération des loisirs St-Michel Nord (recreational federation) and
L'Encadrement sportif are other organizations whose sports activities are
threatened.
    In its 30 years of existence, the Fédération des Loisirs de St-Michel
Nord has motivated over 60,000 kids to play sports. Since the Tobacco Act came
into force, the Fédération has experienced an 80% shortfall in income,
threatening its administrative assistance to over 150 volunteers and,
assistance to defray the cost of registrations and purchases of sports
equipment for over 1,000 children in St-Michel, the most disadvantaged
neighbourhood on the island of Montreal. "The Fédération invests time and
money to benefit the welfare of kids. They are the ones who are going to
suffer because of this," said an emotional France Marchand, the organization's
Executive Director.
    Moreover, L'Encadrement sportif recently suspended its bingo licence
because of the loss of income. As a result, speed skating, swimming and
running programs offered to more than 2,000 children are no longer being
funded.

    Ventilation: a fair and reasonable solution for everyone

    The financial harm caused by the Tobacco Act will be irreversible for all
the NPOs funding sports programs for thousands of children from some of the
poorest neighbourhoods on the island of Montreal. Sport is important to these
young people, not only because it gets them moving, but also gets them out of
living conditions that are often difficult. That's why NPOs need bingo profits
and are proposing a reasonable solution for everyone: separate, ventilated
rooms for smokers. "We all want a solution that will accommodate smokers and
protect non-smokers, while preserving the strength and vitality of the bingo
industry whose profits are used to fund sports for kids," said Serge Beaudoin,
President of Jeunes Sportifs Hochelaga.

    Unfulfilled pre-electoral promises

    On February 12, 2007, fourteen organizations pressured the Finance
Minister to act. New bingo rules (Modification of the rules and regulation for
bingo) were promised before the elections. They never materialized.
Representatives of the NPOs also sent a letter to Messrs. Jean Charest and
Philippe Couillard. The letter sought a meeting so that the NPOs could express
their concerns and find reasonable solutions. The meetings were never granted.





For further information:

For further information: Serge Beaudoin, President of Jeunes Sportifs
Hochelaga, Tel.: (514) 522-1155; France Marchand, Executive Director of the
Fédération des Loisirs de St-Michel, Tel.: (514) 722-9808; Réjean Lagacé,
President of the Centre communautaire sportif Notre-Dame de l'Assomption,
Tel.: (514) 835-2482; Robert Bourassa, Founding President of L'Encadrement
sportif, Tel.: (514) 383-0341

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