Arts alliance says B.C. budget cuts arts funding, but Liberals cover it up by including museum funds in total

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      When Amir Ali Alibhai first saw the 2010-11 provincial budget figures, he thought that the B.C. Liberal government might have restored arts funding. But on examining the budget closely, the executive director of the Alliance for Arts and Culture realized that this wasn’t the case.

      After doing some number crunching, Alibhai has concluded that Finance Minister Colin Hansen has cut B.C. Arts Council funding by 50 percent. And he says almost as large a cut has been made to gambling grants that go to arts and culture.

      “If that’s going to translate into 50-percent cuts in operating grants and the amount of funding that’s available to artists and organizations in Vancouver, I think that’s going to be damaging,” Alibhai told the Georgia Straight by phone.

      Last year, the B.C. legislature committee on finance and government services called upon the government to restore arts funding to the same level provided in the 2008–09 budget. According to the Opposition NDP, the B.C. government spent $47.7 million on arts and culture that year. Alibhai’s group stated in a March 2 news release that this fiscal year, the government will spend only $32.2 million.

      In the March 2 budget, Hansen claimed that $46.1 million has been allocated for arts and culture. However, the finance minister included the Royal B.C. Museum’s $12.2-million operating grant in his calculations.

      Alibhai said that operating funds for the Royal B.C. Museum weren’t included in the 2008–09 total, which means that the B.C. government has ignored the recommendation of the legislative committee. “So it’s actually a cut,” he said.

      Hansen’s budget mentioned that $10 million of this year’s funding will come from a new three-year sport and arts legacy. But Alibhai said he’s not sure how that program will be delivered.

      “It seems at this point they could have just allocated it to the B.C. Arts Council and looked pretty good, because it would have appeared to have restored funding to the B.C. Arts Council,” he noted.

      In a phone interview with the Straight, NDP arts and culture critic Spencer Herbert said the budget-estimates document allocates almost $9.4 million to the B.C. Arts Council, which uses a peer-review process to fund artists and arts organizations. However, he said that after subtracting administrative costs, only $7.9 million will be distributed.

      “So in terms of actual money going to artists, B.C. Arts Council funding is currently half of what it used to be,” Herbert said. “It hovered around $14 million [in previous years].”

      Herbert added that in the past the B.C. Liberal government allocated $20 million in gambling funds to arts and culture. This year’s budget sets aside $11.5 million in gambling funds.

      He claimed that the B.C. Liberal government’s arts-funding policies will lead to thousands of job losses, as artists leave B.C. for places where culture is being supported. “We just saw Crystal Pite’s company, Kidd Pivot, is going to Germany,” Herbert said. (The Straight has reported that Kidd Pivot is set to spend part of the year in Germany.)

      The arts funding in the budget isn’t the only shell game the B.C. Liberals are playing, according to an analysis by economist and former North Vancouver NDP MLA David Schreck.

      “The numbers defy credibility,” Schreck told the Straight in a phone interview shortly after Hansen tabled the budget. “What you see is if you compare the February 2009 pre-election budget—and what they said they would do in 2010–11 in that pre-election budget—with what they are doing now, you can see in every area they are providing less and are cutting services.”

      On his blog (strategicthoughts.com/), Schreck recalled that when the government introduced the February 2009 budget, it stated that the 2010–11 budget for the Ministry of Health Services would be $14.9 billion. When the budget was updated in September, after the election had taken place, the health-ministry budget was reduced to $14.82 billion. This has now been lowered to $14.76 billion, which, he noted, is a drop of $141 million from the pre-election figure.

      Schreck also pointed out that the B.C. Liberal government announced in February 2009 that the 2010–11 budget of the Ministry of Children and Family Development would be $1.41 billion. That has been trimmed to $1.33 billion, for a reduction of $80 million.

      Further, Schreck noted that the Campbell government stated in February 2009 that the Ministry of Housing and Social Development would get $2.65 billion in 2010–11.

      “Today that budget was announced as $2.730 billion,” the former MLA wrote on his blog. But, he warned, this apparent increase of $79 million is not what it seems. “Last year the budget for income assistance was $1.443 billion; this year it is $1.581 billion. Welfare caseloads have been growing at double digit rates; the $138 million increase that is required for welfare (if that is enough), means that everything else in the Ministry is taking a $59 million cut compared to what was promised before the election.”

      In his March 2 budget speech, Hansen stated that the government aims to “enhance support for the vital public services that British Columbians rely on every day, especially in times of economic hardship”.


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      3 Comments

      trenthenry

      Mar 2, 2010 at 9:26pm

      Mr Campbell has gone deaf.

      Across the province, the victims of his cuts to the arts and to sports have been ignored -- except during the Olympics.

      In the last 17 days, we have seen Mr Campbell crow about Canadian athletes, and Canadian artists. Now that the world has left, out come the long knives again.

      Just where does he imagine our athletes and artists come from?

      They come from the very programs that Mr Campbell has just slashed. Again.

      At least when the Aztecs engaged in ritual sacrifice, they were honest about it.

      Open letter from Marcus Youssef

      Mar 4, 2010 at 10:57am

      Dear Kevin (and Frank and Lindsay),

      I'm going to be direct.

      A new $10 million program? With no details? At the same time as a 30-50% cut to BC Arts and a 50% cut to gaming investment?

      No details at all? No inkling of it to anyone? No consultation with anybody in the sector? What have we all been doing for the last 8 months but trying to make ourselves available to help figure this out? What is going on?

      Another layer of bureaucracy? More money on administration and figuring out systems? More political control? I've always thought that this govt wants to reduce red tape and political interference.

      This is what you should do: invest the money in the BC Arts Council. Call it Olympic legacy. Excellent. And ask that the priority be "youth" and "emerging artists". Great! The BC Arts Council is the mechanism to realize these programs. It already DOES these things. And it's way better than creating a whole second layer of bureaucracy, which just siphons money and opportunity away from the work that you hope will get done. Why would you do that?

      Can you imagine what would happen in education if you announced a program worth 100% of the spending on schools and said there were "no details" and that it wouldn't be administered by School Boards? Can you imagine?

      Kevin, I wanted to be sending you a very public "thank you". I still want to do that. The way to make that happen is by investing the new program in BC Arts.

      Sincerely,

      Marcus

      BACK to the trailers, kids...

      Apr 25, 2010 at 2:44pm

      So, let's review: $9.4 million to the B.C. Arts Council (of which only $7.9 million will be distributed after subtracting administrative costs)...
      $11.5 million allocated to... GAMBLING?
      WTF??
      I can just picture B.C. military in Kandahar (if there are any) running round with hard-on's waving their red'n'whites at the prospect of coming home to some celebratory poker'n'prostitutes (govt. funded, of course) - while the rest of us try & drink ourselves out of the blues... (Not pretty)
      I hate to break it to you, kids, but as long as Harper's "ruling" Canada (yes, = as pathetic as it sounds) ain't NONE o' you comin back any time soon! Let's go 'create' mayhem @ the blackjack tables!! (FUK)