Martin C. Barry
A bit of a setback was announced at Agape NPI Partners’ latest meeting. Agape Inc., the founding player in the Networking Partnership Initiative group, saw its application for $100,000 in funding from Ottawa for a new English Speaking Seniors’ Wellness Centre in Laval turned down recently.
NPI Partners, which was founded by Agape more than five years ago, brings together organizations in Laval that are active in the health and social services sector for meetings during which they share strategies and trade information.
Not among the finalists
Agape executive-director Kevin McLeod, who led the March 29 meeting in the auditorium at Laval’s Cité de la Santé hospital, said a funding application had been made to the federally-financed Community Innovation Fund which is overseen by the Quebec Community Groups Network.
According to the QCGN’s website, the CIF is a resource for Quebec’s English-speaking communities “to put social innovation into action.” Out of 40 funding applications received by a QCGN committee, fewer than a dozen were chosen as finalists.
“We did not get chosen,” said McLeod, noting that most of the successful applicants were in the Montreal region, while others were in the Magdalen Islands, Gaspé and Quebec City. Disappointed with the outcome, Agape reached out to its local representative in Ottawa, Laval-Les Îles Liberal MP Fayçal El-Khoury.
El-Khoury working on it
“Mr. El-Khoury is very aware that we did not get the funding,” McLeod said, while being careful to point out that the situation “is not his doing. He’s not the one who said don’t give them the money. But since it is federal money, Mr. El-Khoury will be doing a followup.”
El-Khoury, who attended the NPI Partners meeting, said he had already intervened and would have had something “positive” to say right there, but couldn’t announce it for a few days yet. “We are doing our best in order to reopen the file,” he said, while adding that he was trying alternative paths for obtaining the necessary funding. “I’m doing everything within my means, in my power as MP and representative of Laval-Les Îles in order to be able to do something,” said El-Khoury.
McLeod said the application Agape made “was quite solid” and that a lot of work by Agape personnel had gone into it. “It’s a big application and all the proof is there that there is definitely a need for this Wellness Centre. We have the numbers.”
Quebec money might do
As for a Plan B, McLeod said Agape had taken into account what it might do in the event its application was rejected. The alternative involves getting help from the provincial government. Two weeks ago or so, Agape was among several Laval-area social services groups which received invitations to attend a lunch with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
“I didn’t get too excited because last time I went to one of these events I was one of 200 people sitting in a big room and I spoke for about three seconds,” McLeod said. Still after a little investigating, he decided the event would be worth going to. And as things turned out, he ended up seated at the same table as Premier Couillard, as well as Mille-Îles MNA Francine Charbonneau, who among other things is the Minister Responsible for the Laval Region.
“Being opportunist, as Agape is, we took the time to leave two of these folders for Mrs. Charbonneau and Mr. Couillard,” he said, referring to some printed promotional material for Agape. All the same, McLeod admitted “we do prefer federal money.”
Not giving up on project
The reason for that, he continued, is that as a non-profit organization, receiving a considerable amount of money from the provincial government can change your status. Thus when dealing with large amounts, “we’d much rather deal with the federal government than with the provincial. But if we can deal with both that would be even better.”
So while Agape’s funding application to Ottawa would have allowed the Wellness Centre to operate for two years, with additional funding from Quebec “maybe it could sustain us for four years which would be even greater.” As for the Wellness Centre, “it’s not forgotten,” said McLeod. “We’re not letting it go. And we will not let it go until we get it. Rest assured it will happen.”