Avalanche Canada staff popped corks on champagne bottles yesterday at their Revelstoke-based office after news that the national avalanche safety organization received a $25 million endowment in the federal budget update on Nov. 21.
Avalanche Canada spokesperson Mary Clayton said the endowment was the biggest single funding announcement in the organization’s history.
“That’s given us some good relief for that. We are grateful for the funding,” Clayton told the Mountaineer.
Avalanche Canada runs a myriad of avalanche-related programs, including avalanche forecasting, education programs, scientific studies, and much more. The organization has an approximately $2 million annual budget.
About half of the organization’s budget comes from provincial (Alberta and B.C.) and federal funding, the other half from fundraising, donations, and corporate sponsorships. Clayton said that in recent years, they had lost some corporate sponsorships, which put a pinch on the organization.
Avalanche Canada had been lobbying for additional funding from the federal government for the past two years.
“Over the last years as we were reaching a tipping point,” Clayton said. With difficult budget decisions to make, the forecaster was considering cutting back on programming.
The federal announcement will allow them to keep doing what they do now. “Our first priority is going to shore up our existing programs,” Clayton said.
Although the announcement is great news for Avalanche Canada, the organization is still seeking to flesh out the details of the funding. The announcement was for a one-time ‘endowment,’ not for ongoing operating funding. Avalanche Canada does not know if it will receive the funding in a one-time payment, or if it will be spread out over years, or placed in a trust which pays interest.
“We do not have those details,” Clayton said. “This is the biggest deal we’ve ever had, no matter which way it goes.”
The next step for the organization is to discuss the funding with their provincial partners to see if they can leverage additional funding.
“We have developed an essential service and it needs to be funded like an essential service,” Clayton said.
In a statement, Gilles Valade, Executive Director of Avalanche Canada, reiterated their next step: “We are very grateful for this funding, and especially for the recognition that public avalanche safety is worthy of support. The federal government has made a significant commitment to this cause. We hope the provinces involved in avalanche safety are able to follow this lead.”