Gwaii Trust’s assets at record level

  • Dec. 20, 2006 7:00 p.m.

The market value of the Gwaii Trust fund has reached almost $77-million, islanders heard at the society’s annual general meeting Saturday (Dec. 16) in Old Massett. Gwaii Trust chair Miles Richardson said the fund spent just over $5-million in its latest fiscal year, which ended on Aug. 31. That amount includes $3.7-million given out in grants to islands organizations, $1-million which was reinvested to protect the fund’s principal from inflation, $386,000 in administration and $254,000 for professional fees. Mr. Richardson told the public that the society’s first objective is to make sure the fund’s principal is never spent, and keeps growing by the national inflation rate. The principal started at $38.2-million in 1994; it now stands at $49.3-million. This year was the first year that the society was allowed to invest in international equities rather than being limited to Canadian equities, Mr. Richardson said. The board took advice from its actuary Watson Wyatt Canada and invested $19.4-million in foreign and US equities, through a Calgary-based investment firm. Auditor Michael Johnson of McAlpine and Co presented the financial statements. The Gwaii Trust more than doubled its investment income in the year ended Aug. 31, 2006 to $16.2-million, compared to $7-millon the year before, but Mr. Johnson cautioned against reading too much into these numbers. “The gain is more of a paper gain than anything,” he said, explaining that the revenue was triggered when managers sold some equities in order to reinvest the money in the foreign and US market. The gain reflects steady growth over many years, he said, and the realignment did not affect the trust fund’s actual market value. “The market value of the fund hasn’t increased significantly,” he said. The Gwaii Trust’s market value stood at $76.3-million at the end of the 2004-05 year; at the end of the most recent year it had reached $76.8-million. As in other years, islanders submitted many more applications to Gwaii Trust programs than could be funded, Mr. Richardson said. The society received 217 applications in the 2005-06 year to its eight programs, with requests ranging from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The board approved 124 of those applications, totalling just under $4-million. The board worked on a new five-year business plan during the past year, which will guide it through to 2010. Mr. Richardson said public meetings were held in every community and the board listened to many opinions from islanders. In the end, very few changes were made to the existing programs, and Mr. Richardson said it seems the public is happy with the way the Gwaii Trust is operating. The most significant change is the addition of a new program, the Haida Parity Program, which will hand out $12.3-million to Haida communities over the next 15 years. For this year, $840,000 is available and some of it has already been awarded, as the first application deadline was in October. Copies of the new business plan, which include details about the programs and deadline dates, are available at the Gwaii Trust office or on the internet at gwaiitrust.com

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